New home construction bounced back in May, but still missed economist forecasts as supply-chain issues kept contractors from servicing unprecedented demand.
Housing starts rose 3.6% to an annualized rate of 1.57 million in May, the Census Bureau said Wednesday. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg held a median estimate for a 3.9% jump.
April’s rate was revised lower to 1.52 million, implying a 12.1% slide through the month.
Building permits – which serve as a more forward-looking indicator of residential construction – fell 3% to an annualized rate of 1.68 million. That’s the lowest level since October.
Separately, the number of one-family homes authorized but not yet started climbed to 142,000 last month, the highest since 2006. The gauge is often used as a measure of backlogs in the nation’s housing market.
The May report signals that, while home construction is picking up, the rebound is far from alleviating pressure in the red-hot housing market. Massive demand throughout the pandemic saw sales rates skyrocket and drag inventories to record lows. The imbalance between supply and demand has since led prices to surge and exacerbate affordability risks already lingering throughout the market.
Starts will fail to break out and instead waver near current levels for the rest of 2021, Nancy Vanden Houten, lead economist at Oxford Economics, said.
“Strong demand, a need for inventory, and homebuilder optimism will keep a floor under activity, but builders continue to face supply constraints that may hamper or at least postpone construction,” she added.
Builders have tried to shore up home supply, but their efforts have recently run up against severe bottlenecks. Lumber prices exploded higher in April and crept higher still in May before retracing only some of the rally. The surge helped boost the producer price index for construction materials another 4.6% higher last month after climbing 5.2% in April.
Even the lots where homes are built are in short supply. The New Home Lot Supply Index slid 10% to a record low in the first quarter of the year, housing analytics firm Zonda said in May.
For now, contractors are shifting the higher costs to buyers. Home prices in the US spiked 13.2% year-over-year in March, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Home Price Index. The May reading exceeded the 12.5% estimate and marked the largest one-year jump since December 2005.
One report found that 11% of Americans have moved since the start of the coronavirus crisis. Unmoored by remote work and driven by the desire to be near family or enjoy a lower cost of living, buyers have been snapping up primary residences and second homes, fleeing the coastal cities and flooding states such as Texas and Florida, as well as smaller cities, spacious suburbs, and vacation-home spots.
The mass relocations and purchases – coupled with the reluctance of existing homeowners to find a new place to live during a pandemic – have driven the number of homes for sale down to record lows, which in turn has propelled home prices to their highest rates in 15 years.
Intense bidding wars are commonplace. Take one California home that got 122 offers in two days. A May Zillow report found that nearly half the homes for sale in the US are selling in under a week.
Add that up and it’s harder than ever to break into the real-estate market.
Here are five things to understand in order to decide whether you’re ready to take the plunge into homeownership.
1. There’s a striking imbalance of supply and demand
Competition to buy a home is fierce.
There are more people who want to purchase properties than there are homes on the market. (There are even more real-estate agents in the US than there are homes for sale.)
The tightening housing market is goading prospective buyers into expensive homes that don’t ultimately fit their wants or needs. But for those with cash to spare who are prepared to compromise, now could be a decent time to scoop up a property.
3. Building a new home may not be much of an alternative
While existing listings dwindle – in part because homeowners are reluctant to resell their homes out of fear that they may not be able to afford their next one – a possible solution is to buy land and build a new house.
But the raw materials necessary to construct a new property have gotten exorbitantly expensive amid the pandemic. Logistics and shipping issues have resulted in long waits for certain supplies.
There’s also a finite number of contractors and workers to erect such homes. Those workers are in demand, meaning labor costs are also high. Builders nationwide are facing severe delays to complete new builds or even finish renovation projects on fixer-uppers.
The added costs and delays slow down builders, lead to even more expensive home prices, and act as a deterrent to hopeful buyers.
Nearly two-thirds (64%) of millennials regret buying their home, a new Bankrate survey that polled 1,400-plus homeowners found. Just over 20% cited expensive maintenance costs as the reason why, while 13% said it’s because they overpaid.
Those reasons come as no surprise in today’s cutthroat housing market, marked by both a historic housing shortage and lumber shortage that have propelled housing costs to an all-time high. It’s resulted in heated bidding wars, where competing buyers are throwing down all-cash offers and offering higher down payments.
The skyrocketing prices and tight inventory is creating new affordability challenges for millennials, who have reached peak age for first-time homeownership. They led the housing market last year, but as the boom turned into an inventory crisis, homeownership fell out of reach for the generation yet again.
Many of those able to snag a house only did so by paying above market price, and some rushed the process in hopes of grabbing something before someone else did.
Consider Stella Guan, who told Insider’s Taylor Borden back in February that she regretted buying a home during the pandemic. Guan, who moved from New Jersey to Los Angeles, said she “wanted to get things done fast” and made seven or eight offers before one was finally accepted. Guan thought she landed her dream ranch-style home, saying she thought she got lucky since there was “somehow no counteroffer.”
But the home had black mold, and repairs cost way more than planned. She budgeted $30,000 to fix up the property but ended up paying upward of $50,000 to overhaul the house. While Guan planned to update the home to her tastes, she said: “I spent all my money on repair and not renovation.”
Unable to lure a new buyer, so she sold to an iBuyer and recouped only 50% of her money. She said the state of the housing market can push people into regrettable decisions.
Homeownership isn’t always as it seems
Guan isn’t the only one who found home improvement costly, per findings from BofA Research’s sixth annual millennial home improvement survey.
It found that millennials are more likely to buy a fixer-upper than a new home, and that some are using loans more frequently than cash to fund home improvement projects exceeding $10,000. When BofA last conducted the survey in 2017, only 34% were using loans for home improvement. Today, 42% of respondents are.
Other first-time homebuyers are increasingly making offers on houses they’ve shopped for online and through social media. While the move is second nature for a digitally savvy generation, it also proved to be an easier and less time consuming process for those buying a house in an area they’re not currently residing in and a way to move swiftly when houses are flying off the market. But some may be realizing their new house isn’t all it seemed to be behind the screen.
As Thao Le, a professor of housing economics and real-estate finance at Georgia State University, told Borden, “The trajectory of the pandemic, and thus the economy, is still very much unpredictable.” She added that before committing to homeownership, “aspiring buyers should evaluate their financial situation and job security carefully.”
Are you a millennial having a tough time buying a house right now? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your story.
Americans stopped moving around the 1980s, but that changed last year with remote work.
A new Apartment List report that surveyed 5,000 Americans and analyzed US Census data has confirmed the migration narrative of 2020: Remote work ignited a residential migration rebound as the number of movers increased by 14% to 16% from 2019 to 2020 – it was the first US migration increase in over a decade.
This has big implications for millennial homebuying in particular and wealth inequality in general. The ApartmentList data shows the migrants were largely high-income, meaning that migration was K-shaped, just like the uneven economy born by the coronavirus pandemic. With migration has come a boom in homebuying, and millennials have taken the lead in homebuying, with high-net-worth millennials at the top of the K.
Although the study doesn’t break down generational data, millennials likely comprise many of the high-income households, defined as those earning over $150,000. A previous Apartment List report revealed that the millennial homeownership rate climbed to 47.9% from 40% just three years ago. Many of these millennial homebuyers were likely the same as the 16% of high-income workers that moved over the past year, a 39% jump from the Census Bureau’s estimate of American migrants in 2019.
This marks a sharp contrast from the past decade, in which lower-income workers led migration patterns. Low-income households moved during the migration boom as well, per the report, but the high-income group is more likely to work in flexible jobs. They’ve taken advantage of remote work to move across the country in search of more space and more affordable housing.
Apartment List also found that high-income workers were twice as likely to purchase a home as low-income workers, which dovetails with millennials reaching peak homebuying age during the pandemic and leading the housing recovery. Historically low interest rates made more types of homes viable for the generation, at least for those who had enough money saved to win out bidding wars in a cutthroat market.
Other millennials were priced out as housing prices reached record highs, while others still couldn’t even fathom becoming homeowners. Many moved back home with their parents during the pandemic, either temporarily or permanently. According to a Pew Research Center report, 52% of young adults lived with at least one of their parents as of July 2020, topping the last high of 48% many decades ago, in 1940.
The millennial wealth gap
This migration divide exemplifies the intragenerational millennial wealth gap, which has widened during the pandemic. Such millennial inequality dates back to the Great Recession, with wealthier millennials faring well while their low-earning peers are struggling.
The affordability crisis millennials were already facing prepandemic has left some with little wealth to fall back on as they experience unemployment and other hardships during the coronavirus recession, causing some to move back in with their parents. But a smaller, higher-earning group with stable income has been able to save, invest, and even buy homes with extra money they would otherwise spend in non-pandemic times.
Millennials are experiencing their own K-shaped recovery, uniquely compounded by two recessions. Generational researcher Jason Dorsey, the president of the Center for Generational Kinetics, previously told Insider this could lead to an unequal recovery between these two groups, with those those who lost a job recovering longer than those who began the pandemic with a better financial backstop.
This uneven rebound might have an effect on migration as well. As the report concludes, continuing migration patterns could further redistribute wealth away from the country’s biggest and priciest cities.
With the pandemic-era ability to work from home, the desire for homeownership has been on the rise this past year, with a housing inventory crisis developing as a result.
But the Indianapolis Star reported last week that Black homeowners who want to put their houses on the market or seek lower mortgage rates are at a disadvantage just because of their race.
The Star spoke to Carlette Duffy, a Black homeowner who had sought three appraisals on her home to start the process of refinancing her current mortgage loan. The first two appraisers valued it at $125,000 and $110,000, respectively, but when she had a white friend stand in for her during a third appraiser’s visit, the value of her home shot up to $259,000. She had suspected the appraisers were lowballing her because of her race, and she was right.
“I had to go through all of that just to say that I was right and that this is what’s happening,” Duffy told the Star. “This is real.”
Duffy and the Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana filed complaints against the mortgage lenders and appraisers, accusing them of undervaluing her home because of race with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and her case is now in the hands of the government.
Duffy’s situation is far from unique. A 2018 study from Brookings found that homes in Black neighborhoods are undervalued by $48,000 on average, amounting to $156 billion in cumulative losses.
“That metric shows there’s racism in the housing market,” Andre Perry, a fellow at the Brookings Institute, told Insider last year. “There’s something going on in the practices and policies of appraisals, real estate agent behavior, and lending.”
Insider previously reported that Black Americans lag behind white Americans on homeownership, with Black people being denied mortgages at higher rates than white people, even though many are credit-worthy.
And studies have shown that there’s a long history of structural racism is the housing market, significantly setting back Black homeowners. A study from the Center for American Progress (CAP) found that federal, state and local policies have prompted housing discrimination through tactics to prevent Black Americans and Americans of color from building wealth through homeownership.
For example, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Home Owners’ Loan Act and the National Housing Act in the 1930s had the goals of making homeownership more affordable, but when determining which neighborhoods would get guaranteed mortgages, the Home Owners Loan Corporation denied Black people access to mortgage loan refinancing “while perpetuating the notion that residents of color were financially risky and a threat to local property values,” CAP said.
“Homeownership has traditionally been the primary way that Americans accumulate wealth,” Cleaver said in a statement. “High-profile cases of homes owned by people of color being devalued in comparison to homes owned by their white neighbors have renewed calls for federal action.”
The bill would create task forces comprised of civil rights advocates and industry representatives to respond to racial disparities in real estate valuations, and it follows a March letter from 35 lawmakers calling on the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council to take action on housing discrimination.
Duffy told the Star that she wants justice and hopes that HUD will address discriminatory housing practices.
“I’m excited, vindicated, relieved, angry, extremely peeved since I can’t say the other expletives that were running through me at that point in time – destroyed that I had to go through all of that,” she said. “This is real … just being able to prove it is the hard part.”
Just a few months ago, in February, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) released shocking data about how the historic appreciation in lumber prices was crimping the housing market. A newbuild was $24,000 more expensive, on average.
The housing market took off last summer, as the pandemic enabled many to work from home indefinitely, and with mortgage rates so low, many people rushed to buy new homes. But the pandemic shut down lumber production, and it hasn’t kept pace with building since.
“This unprecedented price surge is hurting American home buyers and home builders and impeding housing and economic growth,” NAHB Chairman Chuck Fowke said in a statement. “These lumber price hikes are clearly unsustainable. Policymakers need to examine the lumber supply chain, identify the causes for high prices and supply constraints and seek immediate remedies that will increase production.”
A report from the NAHB in February said the lumber supply chain impact came as factories shut down almost immediately last March for safety reasons, and then as demand spiked, supply couldn’t keep up. Lumber prices have jumped by 340% compared to last year.
Insider reported on March 26 that because lumber prices are so high, home builders have been building fewer homes and intentionally raising prices to keep up with the high demand for houses amidst the low supply of lumber.
In addition, a report from Redfin – a real estate brokerage- found that the average home sale price hit an all-time record in March, increasing 16% year-over-year t0 $331, 590, and with about one in three homes being sold for more than the asking price in February, experts like Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather are concerned.
“When the pandemic is over, purchasing a home is going to cost much more than ever before, putting homeownership much further out of reach for many Americans,” Fairweather said in a statement. “That means a future in which most Americans will not have the opportunity to build wealth through home equity, which will worsen inequality in our society.”
Insider’s Hillary Hoffower reported on April 30 that the pandemic and the lumber shortage are combining to put homeownership out of reach for many, but especially the millennials entering their prime homebuying years. Fairweather told said the housing shortage is leaving millennials “boxed out of the housing market.”
On March 12, the NAHB, along with more than 35 other housing organizations, wrote a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo asking her to examine the lumber supply chain and look into solutions for the high costs.
They said: “Housing and construction can do their parts to create jobs, boost the economy to its pre-pandemic strength, and provide safe and affordable housing for all Americans, but in order to do so the federal government needs to address skyrocketing lumber prices and chronic shortages.”
Housing data is hitting levels unseen since 2006 in at least three different ways, begging the question of whether this is another bubble. Experts say this isn’t that – it’s economics.
Another housing bubble 15 years after the last one would be very bad news, as the epic pop of that market in 2008 threatened the stability of the entire global financial system. But while today’s price inflation is similar to then, the drivers behind this market rally look different.
Nationwide home prices grew 12% year-over-year – their fastest pace since 2006 – this past February, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Index. Gains were broad-based, with all 20 cities tracked by the index experiencing price growth above their respective median levels.
Separately, CoreLogic’s own home-price index also recorded the highest annual leap since 2006 in February. That gauge tracks home prices across the country, while S&P’s index measures prices in 20 metropolitan areas.
Also, for the first time since 2005, the median sale price for previously owned single-family homes is higher than that for new construction. In other words, the premium Americans typically pay to be the first to live in a new house has been completely erased as homebuyers have rushed to buy any home on the market.
“The conditions underlying what happened way back then, during the bubble of ’05 and ’06, and what’s driving price growth today are just fundamentally, radically different,” Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic, told Insider.
Where dubious lending and market euphoria powered the mid-2000s surge, today’s boom is almost entirely due to a nationwide supply shortage. The monthly supply of homes sits near record lows of about 3 months, leading sellers to demand increasingly large sums for their properties. That compares to more than 12 months of supply in 2009.
Today’s market is also backed by a strong underwriting process and isn’t engulfed in a subprime mortgage crisis, Nothaft explained. The price growth we are currently experiencing, he continued, “is rooted in economics.”
Record low mortgage rates and the heightened focus on space have sent buyer demand through the roof, but a pullback from prospective sellers and a lack of newbuilds have resulted in a national decline in homes for sale.
“When you put all these pieces together, increase in demand and limited supply, it pushes prices up and that’s what we’re seeing in the marketplace,” Nothaft added.
Learning from post-crisis mistakes
Other gauges aren’t just at their hottest levels since 2006, but their hottest levels full-stop. The median selling price for existing homes touched a record high of $329,100 in March, according to the National Association of Realtors. And though the supply of previously owned homes has edged higher in recent months, it’s still close to February’s all-time low of 1.03 million units.
“We’ve been underbuilding for years,” Gay Cororaton, director of housing and commercial research for the National Association of Realtors (NAR), told Insider.
The shortage can be traced back to that 2008 housing crash and its long-term fallout. The buying frenzy seen throughout the 2000s had fueled a boom in new construction as builders rushed to meet unprecedented demand. But once the bubble burst, contractors pulled back on building in an effort to prop up demand. Construction rebounded slowly through the last decade, leaving the market with diminished inventories once the pandemic-era boom began.
Daryl Fairweather, chief economist at Redfin, told Insider that the last decade saw a massive drop-off in homebuilding. Fewer homes were built by a factor of 20 going all the way back to the 1960s, she said.
But the latest data suggests contractors are finally heeding the market’s call. Home starts leaped nearly 20% last month to the highest level since, you guessed it, 2006. The reading also marks the largest month-over-month increase since 1990, underscoring the urgency faced by homebuilders.
Americans also seem prepared to keep the market boom alive for at least a while longer. The share of consumers planning to buy a home in the next six months rose to 8.9% in April from 8.1%, according to The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index. That’s the highest proportion since 1987.
“I think we will return more to the trend that we were seeing pre-pandemic,” Nothaft said, which showed steady national price growth in the single digits. In February 2020, home prices increased by 4.1% year-over-year.
It’s bad news for many aspiring homebuyers – but especially for millennials. It’s just the latest chapter in a long line of bad economic luck.
Daryl Fairweather, chief economist at Redfin, told Insider it’s unfortunate the generation that suffered from the last housing crisis – entering the job force in the middle of a recession – is now facing a different kind of housing crisis. “Now that they have [somewhat] economically recovered and are looking to buy a home for the first time, we’re faced with this housing shortage,” she said. “They’re already boxed out of the housing market.”
The shortage is a result of several things: contractors underbuilding over the past dozen years, a lumber shortage, and the pandemic itself. It comes at a time when millennials have reached peak age for first-time homeownership, according to CoreLogic, leading the housing recovery. But such increased millennial demand has exacerbated the shrinking housing inventory.
While CoreLogic says millennials are set to drive the housing sector for a long time to come, they won’t have an easy time of it if skyrocketing prices and tight inventory create new affordability challenges. Just as homeownership fell within their grasp, it’s slipping out of their fingers yet again.
Chief among the latter has been the price of homes. By 2018, millennials buying their first home were paying 39% more than boomers did at the same age nearly 40 years ago. The increasing cost of a down payment made it even more difficult for millennials, already struggling to build wealth, to save.
Then came the 2020 housing boom.
Millennials led all generations in homebuying last year, according to Apartment List’s Homeownership report, accelerating a five-year trend in millennial homeownership rates rising the fastest. The millennial homeownership rate climbed to 47.9% from 40% just three years ago, per the report. The Jefferies note also highlighted that homeownership rates have increased among those ages 25 to 29 and especially accelerated for those ages 30 to 34. The same note also noted the underbuilding of homes dating back to the Great Recession.
“We’ve been underbuilding for years,” Gay Cororaton, director of housing and commercial research for the National Association of Realtors (NAR), told Insider. She said the US has been around 6.5 million homes short since 2000 and is currently facing a two-month supply of homes that should look more like a six-month supply.
There have been 20 times fewer homes built in the last decade than in any decade as far back as the 1960s, according to Fairweather. She added that’s not enough homes for millennials, who are the biggest generation, to buy.
The pandemic and a lumber shortage worsened the situation
Further driving the housing scarcity is the pandemic itself. Some owners aren’t listing their homes as a safety precaution, Cororaton said. Others are wary of putting them on the market for fear of being unable to find an affordable replacement to buy.
Cororaton said there might have been more homes on the market absent a historic lumber shortage. Lumber factories shut down almost immediately last March due to safety restrictions. When the housing market opened up, Americans bought more new houses than the lumber industry could keep up with. As demand spiked, lumber prices jumped by almost 200% since April 2020. It led to an average unexpected price increase of $24,000 for new homes in the past year, per NAR, one aspect of a nationwide record-high rise in housing prices.
Home prices have been shooting up for years, at a steeper rate than they did ahead of the Great Recession. But the national median home-sale price hit a new high of $353,000, per Redfin. Housing prices are up 18% year-over-year, Fairweather said: “I don’t see values going down at any point.”
The shrinking housing inventory further inflamed a market already hot with demand, sparking cutthroat competition. The typical house is getting snatched up in less than a month as aspiring homebuyers find themselves in bidding wars, putting in all-cash offers, and offering higher down payments.
Cash sales have increased from 18% to 23% in the past year, and first-time home buyers are more likely to put down a full 20% down payment than they were last year, according to NAR. “Because the market is so tight, you want to sweep in and make your offer more attractive,” Cororaton said, adding that a 20% down payment is more appealing to the seller because it signifies financial capability.
Every home sold in March saw nearly five offers on average, compared to two offers in 2019 and 2020 at the same time. Seeing some houses with multiple offers, some buyers on tight budgets aren’t even bothering to jump into the bidding war.
Losing an avenue for building wealth
A heated market running low on homes and high on competitive demand has ultimately set a new pricing precedent that is pushing homeownership further away for many first-time buyers. Although the wealthier cohort of the millennials may be better positioned to buy a home, even those who successfully managed to scrape together some savings are facing dwindling chances of homeownership.
Owning a home is a traditional way of building wealth through equity, but the increasing cost of such an investment is eliminating such an opportunity for many. This is particularly troubling for millennials, some of whom already have less wealth than past generations at their age. Losing housing as a wealth avenue could further widen the generational wealth gap between them and boomers, adding to the vicious cycle of millennial economic woes.
“The bottom line is, [homeownership is] going to be more difficult for millennials,” Cororaton said, adding that some of them are still dealing with debt.
Contractors need to ramp up new builds if they want to satisfy growing millennial demand, per Jefferies – as many as 1.7 million to 2 million new homes per year, maybe even more to fully repair the imbalance. Housing starts rose to 1.7 million in March, but Cororaton said building new homes is also the beginning of addressing the housing issue.
New-construction homes can be expensive for buyers. While an increase in supply would relieve pressure on prices, she said, down-payment assistance would be helpful. And when more homes are built, she added, we should allow for higher density housing, which would mean changing zoning laws and regulations. But as she put it, “that’s easier said than done.”
While builders are doing everything they can to build so they can take advantage of a hot housing market, Fairweather said, challenges like the lumber shortage, a lack of skilled labor, and shipping shortages – affects the appliances that going into a home – aren’t helping.
“All the shortages right now are definitely not helping us figure our way out of the hole, but even without those challenges, the hole is humongous,” Fairweather said. “So it’s going to take decades of building lots and lots of homes.”
If you live in Illinois and have outstanding student loans, the state could pay off some of your debt to help you buy a house.
The SmartBuy program, offered by the Illinois Housing Development Authority, helps anyone who wants to buy a home in Illinois by paying off up to $40,000 in student debt, or a loan amount equal to 15% of the home purchase price. According to the Chicago Tribune, between the start of the program in December and early April, it has paid off an average of $24,100 in student debt for each buyer, and people from outside the state have even been inclined to move there to make use of the program.
“I’m getting a lot of interest,” Chanon Slaughter, a vice president of mortgage lending at Guaranteed Rate, told the Tribune. “I am getting folks literally saying, ‘I want to move back to Chicago for this program.'”
Along with paying off student loans, the program also provides $5,000 that can be used for a down payment or closing costs.
There are a few catches, though: A buyer’s outstanding student debt must be paid in full at the time of the home purchase, and if the buyer chooses to sell the house within three years of the purchase, they must repay a portion of the student loan assistance. The other catch is that Illinois has allocated $25 million to the program, so it’s only expected to help between 600 and 1,000 homebuyers.
Here are the program’s eligibility requirements, according to its website:
The buyer must have at least $1,000 in student loans;
The buyer’s FICO “mid-score” must be 640 or higher;
The buyer’s income must be under or at the limits for the county where the property is located, which can be found on the IHDA mortgage website;
And the assistance cannot be applied retroactively – the buyer must be buying a new primary residence.
This program has the potential to tackle two simultaneous affordability crises – the $1.7 trillion pile of student debt and the skyrocketing price of the median house since the housing market reopened during the pandemic, exacerbated by a serious inventory shortage. It isn’t the only experimental economic program being offered in Illinois, either. Evanston, a city in Illinois, approved spending on March 22 for a $10 million reparations fund that compensated Black residents through $25,000 housing grants.
Insider previously reported that the average home sale price hit a record high March, and the spiking housing costs have concerned housing experts, like Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather, who said in a statement that they could be putting homeownership out of reach for too many Americans.
“That means a future in which most Americans will not have the opportunity to build wealth through home equity, which will worsen inequality in our society,” Fairweather said.
Housing prices have skyrocketed during the pandemic, as it seems many people bought new homes. But something else is going on, too: not enough homes are hitting the market.
A report from real estate analytics corporation Black Knight puts into perspective just how dire the situation is: housing inventory is down by 40% compared to the same time last year, with new listing volumes down 16% year-over-year in January and 21% in February, amounting to a 125,000 deficit in inventory compared to 2020 levels.
“Any hopes of 2021 bringing an influx of homes to the market and lessening pressure on prices appear to be dashed for now,” Ben Graboske, Black Knight’s data and analytics president, told real estate news site HousingWire.
Housing affordability is at its lowest point since 2019 due to the low inventory and increased housing prices, and as Insider previously reported, the increased prices are largely thanks to the low supply of lumber and high demand for houses.
The National Association of Home Builders found that the average price of a family home has increased by $24,368 since last April, mostly because of diminishing building supplies when lumber mills shut down at the beginning of the pandemic for safety reasons. After the mills began to reopen, lumber prices spiked by 200%, and in March, housing-data platform Zonda found that at least 70% of builders were intentionally raising home prices to slow demand and give them more time to acquire materials.
Also in March, a report from real-estate brokerage Redfin found the average home sale price hit an all-time record – increasing 16% year-over-year to $331,590 – and that one in three homes had sold for more than its asking price in February.
The increase in housing prices was of concern to Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather, who said in the report that it’s putting homeownership out of reach for many Americans.
“That means a future in which most Americans will not have the opportunity to build wealth through home equity, which will worsen inequality in our society,” Fairweather said.
Insider’s Taylor Borden reported on March 23 that the number of homes for sale could run out in just two months, and experts expect inventory to remain at record lows.