Will Shrinking Inventories Price Out New Buyers in California?

While many aspects of the real estate market have seen encouraging changes in recent weeks, one new development could spell disaster in the near future. Recently, the total number of homes available nationwide fell for the first time in 16 months, while many Californian markets saw significant drops from previous months. Now, there is a growing concern that the tightening inventory could accelerate price gains – a change which could ultimately force many would-be buyers out of the market.

3D red glass houseA new report from the National Association of Realtors recently stated that the number of homes available on the market dropped in the month of December, waning by a modest 1% from the year before but marking the first year over year decline in 16 months.

Although several metro areas throughout California saw improvements year-over-year, many still saw significant drops in inventory from previous months.

Orange County for example – which is already facing a housing shortage and believed to have a deficit of 30,000 to 60,000 homes – had a significant improvement of 43.9% year-over-year but still dropped 8.5% from the month before. San Francisco’s inventory, on the other hand, declined by 15% year-over-year and 40% from the month before. San Diego saw a more modest drop, with inventory sinking by 1.7% from the year before and 16.9% from the previous month.

Bakersfield was the only metro area which saw positive gains on both a yearly and monthly basis, increasing by a whopping 52.1% and 4.1% respectively, according to data collected by Redfin.

While sellers may at potentially increasing prices, it’s likely that buyers and their agents will start to feel the pressure of a tightening inventory.

“Months’ supply is already low at 4.4 months,” said National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun in an analysis of the trend. “More inventories are needed, not less. Or else, home prices could reaccelerate.”

It’s believed that a part of the drop was a result of declining foreclosure inventories, so agents and brokers who deal heavily in distressed properties should be aware that business opportunities could be shrinking as well.

Do you think the recent drop in available listings will price out new buyers? What are your thoughts?

  • Bob Bishop

    I agree with this article with regards to inventory, however, it doesn’t take the current drought into consideration. Currently we don’t have enough water supply for the existing properties in California. In some counties there are homes that don’t have running water already.

    I was at the CAR business meetings last month and Governor Brown was talking about the need to build more houses because the housing stock in not sufficient for future needs.

    Some articles I have read even say that if the drought is not alleviated some areas may have to be evacuated permanently. The aquifers are seriously depleted and are not being replenished sufficiently. So we will have to wait and see how water supply is going to affect our industry. It seems like many have their heads in the dry sand presently!!