by Bill McBride on 2/04/2013
Inventory declines every year in December and January as potential sellers take their homes off the market for the holidays – and then starts increasing again in February. That is why it helps to look at the year-over-year change in inventory.
According to the deptofnumbers.com for (54 metro areas), overall inventory is down 22.2% year-over-year in early February and up slightly from January (on a monthly basis).
This graph shows the NAR estimate of existing home inventory through December (left axis) and the HousingTracker data for the 54 metro areas through early February.
Since the NAR released their revisions for sales and inventory in 2011, the NAR and HousingTracker inventory numbers have tracked pretty well.
On a seasonal basis, housing inventory usually bottoms during the holidays and then starts increasing in February – and peaks in mid-summer. So inventory will probably increase for the next 6+ months.
The second graph shows the year-over-year change in inventory for both the NAR and HousingTracker.
The year-over-year declines will probably start to get smaller since inventory is already very low.
One of key questions for 2013 is Will Housing inventory bottom this year?. Since this is a very important question, I’m also tracking inventory weekly this year.
If inventory does bottom, we probably will not know for sure until late in the year. Ben at Housing Tracker (Department of Numbers) has provided me weekly inventory data for the last several years and this is displayed on the graph below as a percentage change from the first week of the year.
In 2010 (blue), inventory followed the normal seasonal pattern, however in 2011 and 2012, there was only a small increase in inventory early in the year, followed by a sharp decline for the rest of the year.
Note: the data is a little weird for early 2011 (spikes down briefly).
The key will be to see how much inventory increases over the next few months. In 2010, inventory was up 8% by early March, and up 15% by the end of March.
For 2011 and 2012, inventory only increased about 5% at the peak.
So far in 2013, even with the slight decline last week (probably noise), inventory is already up 3.0%. The next few months will be very interesting for inventory!