The number of homes listed for sale in 18 major U.S. metropolitan areas at the end of May was up 5.1% from April, according to figures compiled by ZipRealty Inc., a national real-estate brokerage firm based in Emeryville, Calif. The data cover all listings of single-family homes, condos and town houses on local multiple-listing services in those areas.
The sizable increase is notable because, on a national basis, inventories of listed homes have typically been little changed in May during the past two decades, according to Credit Suisse Group. May is one of the peak home-selling months because families with children often aim to move during the summer vacation.
Some of the biggest inventory increases last month came in the metro areas of Seattle, up 12% from April; San Francisco, 11%; Los Angeles, 10%; and Washington, D.C., 9%.
Inventories also are up sharply from a year earlier. For the 15 cities for which year-earlier comparisons were available, combined inventory was up 29% from May 2006.
The blog interest rate roundup had a great back of the envelope series of calculations on overall US inventories. Here's their conclusion (from Just how large is this inventory glut?):
Census data on new home inventory goes back to 1963. Prior to the latest down cycle, the highest inventory level recorded was 432,000 units in August 1973. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, it was customary to have about 300,000 to 320,000 homes for sale, with peaks (in 1989 and 1995) of around 370,000.
This time around, supply has come down somewhat from the July 2006 peak of 573,000 units. But it's clear that we still have a major inventory glut -- something on the order of 150,000-200,000 units.
* So what about the existing home market? That 4.2 million inventory reading is quite literally off the charts. My data for combined SFH+co-op+condo inventory only goes back to early 1999. Between that year and 2004, inventory typically ran in the 2 million - 2.5 million unit range. In other words, we are potentially oversupplied to the tune of 1.7 million to 2.2 million units.
If you just look at the single-family only data (3.59 million units in April 2007), it's the same story -- a historical inventory glut. This measure typically ranged from around 1.5 million units to 2.3 million units throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.
Not a pretty picture, is it?