There’s a historic shortage of houses for sale, and Realtor.com predicts more pain for homebuyers this year

February 17, 2022, 6:19 PM UTC

If you’re in the market for a new house, gear up for another wild year, because prices are high, and the number of new homes for sale is down—way down.

Veterans of the brutal 2021 housing market may remember last year’s housing supply shock. The inventory of homes for sale dropped 53% between April 2020 and April 2021, according to data from realtor.com

And the prospects for 2022 aren’t looking much rosier.

“We’re forecasting a whirlwind year ahead for buyers—especially first-timers—as demand outmatches the for-sale home supply recovery,” Danielle Hale, chief economist at realtor.com, told Fortune.

New listings for homes were down 3% and the overall number of active listings were down 26% for the week ending Feb. 12, compared to the same period last year, according to the latest data from realtor.com. It’s yet another record low as America has fewer and fewer homes for sale.

Buyer interest continues to outpace the number of homeowners willing to sell, making this year’s real estate game a perfect seller’s market, an ongoing trend in the early months of 2022.

“New listings have trended below historical levels for nine of the past 10 weeks,” Hale said.

Housing supply has fallen dramatically since the pandemic. Inventory more than halved, from 1 million active listings in January 2020 to a little over 400,000 in January 2022, according to data from the Federal Reserve.

This is expected to be a rough year to buy a home, but Hale sees some reprieve for home seekers in the coming months.

“Inventory is projected to grow 0.3% on average in 2022, rebounding from 2021 lows, but remain limited,” she said.

She expects more sellers to enter the market come spring, boosting inventory. However, spring also tends to be the most competitive period of the year to buy a home.

“These supply and demand dynamics create a chicken-and-egg-type dilemma, and one that will be important to watch heading into the spring, when competition typically picks up even further,” Hale said.

The 3% drop in new listings last week may even be good news for home seekers, as the decrease was lower than the 7% decline of the week before. 

Hale believes that rumblings of higher mortgage rates in the near future, and the increases that have already happened, may be inflating the number of interested buyers right now, who are trying to get their new home confirmed while mortgages are relatively low.

The supply-chain crunch isn’t making anything easier for homebuyers, and Hale says that it’s making the process of building new homes nearly impossible. The dearth of construction materials has created a new-home construction supply gap of 5.8 million houses as of this month, according to realtor.com, and the scarcity of new homes is making potential home sellers rethink putting their house on the market.

“It’s important to remember that the inventory challenges faced by buyers can also impact seller participation, as the majority of home sellers will also buy another home,” Hale said.

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