Home buyers out in force, but sellers a no-show in April
Published: Tuesday, May 15, 2012, 7:38 PM Updated: Tuesday, May 15, 2012, 11:09 PM
Home buyers were out in force in April, signing more sales contracts than they have since a tax credit spurred a buying frenzy in early 2010.
But Portland-area homeowners are still sitting by the sidelines. New listings aren’t showing up, leaving would-be buyers fighting over what’s on the market.
“This is the time of year when we typically see inventory balloon,” saidPeter G. Clark, a principal broker with Keller Williams in Portland. “They’re just not bringing homes on the market. There’s a real scramble for the inventory that exists.”
April home sales numbers released Tuesday by the Regional Multiple Listing Service show a market where demand outpaced supply. That contributed to an increase in the median sales price, a sign of stabilizing home values.
The month’s median sale price was $225,000, 2.3 percent higher than a year earlier. The average, however, fell 1.8 percent to $262,400.
The 1,822 homes that sold during the month represent the best performance since June, when 1,958 homes sold.
At that rate, the 8,523 homes for sale at the end of the April would sell in 4.7 months. Six months of supply is considered a balanced market, and the 4.7-month supply is the lowest since May 2007.
Another 2,365 buyers signed sale contracts that will be finalized in the coming months. Excluding two months in early 2010 — the deadline for first-time homebuyers claiming a tax credit — pending sales were higher than any month since August 2007.
Homes that sold in the month of April spent only 123 days on the market, from the day they were listed to the day the deal closed. A year ago, they would have spent another month on the market.
As the employment outlook for would-be buyers has improved and prices have started to stabilize, more people have started shopping for a home. Mortgage rates hovered near 3.9 percent in April and dropped to a new low of 3.83 percent for an average 30-year fixed loan last week.
“Interest rates are a huge driving force,” said Gary Whiting, managing broker for John L. Scott Real Estate in Beaverton. “A lot of buyers a few months ago were sitting back thinking the market’s not bottomed yet. … More buyers are willing to go out and actually buy a house now.”
But many homeowners aren’t in a position to sell. At the end of last year, one in five Portland-area homeowners with a mortgage owed more than their homes were worth. And homes in foreclosure, which typically sell for a discount, continue to weigh on prices.
Despite a deep pipeline of homes headed for foreclosure, demand for the low-priced homes outpaces supply.
The April numbers — with supply shrinking, demand growing, and prices essentially flat — paint a portrait of a market where something’s got to give.
“It’s kind of an exciting time,” Clark said. “But it’s also frustrating, because the buyers can’t find anything to buy.”