Home Sales Fell in January Due to Inventory Shortage and Tax Reform Uncertainty
SEATTLE, Feb. 15, 2018 — Home prices increased 7.8 percent year over year in January, according to Redfin (www.redfin.com), the next-generation real estate brokerage. The median sale price was $280,500 across the markets Redfin services. Sales were down 7.9 percent annually as the ongoing inventory shortage showed no signs of ending. The number of homes for sale in January dropped by 14.4 percent, the largest year-over-year decline in 28 consecutive months of falling supply.
The typical home that sold in January found a buyer after 53 days on the market, six days faster than January 2017. The percentage of homes that sold above list (19.2%) and the average sale to list price ratio (97.8%) were both up slightly compared to January of last year, setting the stage for a spring market that could be even more competitive than last year.
“Sales volume is typically lowest in January, so while sales fell further than normal, it is not a major cause for concern,” said Redfin senior economist Taylor Marr. “Redfin agents in high-tax states reported that some buyers were hesitant in November and December given the uncertainty around tax reform, which passed in late December. This uncertainty contributed to the drop in January home sales.”
Marr says potential move-up buyers are now reassessing whether it makes sense to list their homes in the face of higher mortgage rates and less favorable tax treatment for their next home. Some buyers have determined lower deductions may be offset by other tax cuts, but those tax cuts won’t hit buyers’ paychecks for a couple months.
Redfin agents report eagerness among buyers to purchase a home before mortgage rates inch up further and prices rise any higher – if they can find a home they want to buy.
“Many buyers are concerned about interest rates, but the biggest driver of this market is inventory, not rates,” said Redfin Washington, D.C., agent Joe Krupsaw. “None of my clients have said they’ll change their plans to buy if rates increase. I think when rates hit 4.5 percent we’ll see some buyers reassess their budgets and what they can afford, but they won’t stop looking for a home.”
Just 6 percent of respondents to a recent survey commissioned by Redfin said they would cancel their home buying plans if rates rose above 5 percent. Twenty-seven percent said it would cause them to slow their search, 25 percent said it would have no impact, 21 percent said it would increase their urgency to buy, and another 21 percent said they would look for a less expensive home.
San Jose Homes Sold a Month Faster than Last Year
For yet another month, San Jose was the fastest and most competitive market in the country. The typical home found a buyer in 12 days, 30 days fewer than last January. San Jose homes sold for an average of 9 percent over the asking price, which is the highest sale-to-list price ratio Redfin has recorded in that metro area.
“Buyers in San Jose have shown a complete disregard for recent comparable offers and are coming in swinging in order to win a home,” said Redfin Silicon Valley agent Kalena Masching. “It has gotten to the point where buyers are submitting preemptive offers that are so good it’s not worth the seller to wait for an official offer deadline or the first open house.”
Other January Highlights
San Jose, CA was the fastest market, with half of the homes that sold last month under contract in just 12 days, down from 42 days from a year earlier. Seattle, WA and Oakland, CA were the next fastest markets with 16 and 17 median days on market, followed by Denver, CO (19) and San Francisco, CA (23).
The most competitive market in January was San Jose, CA where 75.5% of homes sold above list price, followed by 62.2% in Oakland, CA, 60% in San Francisco, CA, 41.7% in Seattle, WA, and 37.6% in Tacoma, WA.
Memphis, TN had the nation’s highest price growth, rising 24.6% since last year to $162,000. San Francisco, CA had the second highest growth at 23.8%, followed by San Jose, CA (21.6%), Baton Rouge, LA (17.8%), and Seattle, WA (15.4%).
Four metros saw price declines in January: Milwaukee, WI (-2.7%), Camden, NJ (-2.6%), Birmingham, AL (-2.3%), and Baltimore, MD (-1.8%).
Only 11 out of 73 metros saw positive sales growth in January from last year. Salt Lake City, UT led the nation in year-over-year sales growth, up 11.9%, followed by Greenville, SC, up 11.8%. Kansas City, MO rounded out the top three with sales up 7.5% from a year ago.
Michigan metro areas saw the largest declines in sales since last year, led by Detroit, MI where sales declined 29.7%. Home sales in Grand Rapids, MI and Warren, MI declined by 29.1% and 28.4%, respectively.
San Jose, CA had the largest decrease in overall inventory, falling 43.6% since last January. Rochester, NY (-37.5%), Buffalo, NY (-37.1%), and Atlanta, GA (-35.4%) also saw far fewer homes available on the market than a year ago.
Only two metro areas had increases in the number of homes for sale in January: Baton Rouge, LA (16.7%) and Honolulu, HI (7.6%).
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