Housing Inventory Drops in May

Housing Inventory Drops in May EMERYVILLE, CA - The number of homes listed for sale declined again in many U.S. cities last month, though supplies are generally plentiful. The supply of homes available for sale in 28 major metropolitan areas at the end of May was down 3.9% from a month earlier, according to figures compiled by ZipRealty Inc., a real-estate brokerage firm based in Emeryville, Calif. The ZipRealty data cover all single-family homes, condominiums and town houses listed on local multiple-listing services in metro areas where the firm operates.

On a national basis over the past 25 years, inventories typically have shown little change in May from April levels, according to Zelman & Associates, a research firm.

Compared with the year-earlier month, the May inventory in the 28 metro areas was down 24%. The National Association of Realtors says about four million homes were listed for sale nationwide at the end of April. That was down about 11% from a year earlier.

The exact level of supply remains unclear because the figures from the Realtors and Zip do not include all of the foreclosed homes that banks are preparing to sell. According to some industry estimates, as many as half of those homes are not included on multiple-listing services at any given time. Some foreclosed homes are not listed because they are being offered as rentals; others are awaiting repairs or are subject to litigation or other delays.

Despite those uncertainties, Thomas Lawler, a housing economist in Leesburg, Va., says the recent decline in inventories and the slow pace of home construction "indicate that home prices in many parts of the country could be nearing a bottom." Integrated Asset Services LLC, Denver, reported Tuesday that its national house price index in April was unchanged from a month earlier and down 13% from April 2008. A recent uptick in mortgage interest rates is likely to deter some potential buyers.

The Zip data do not include New York City. But Miller Samuel Inc., an appraisal firm, reports there were 9,551 cooperative apartments and condominiums on the market in Manhattan at the end of May. That was down 8% from a month earlier but up 9% from May 2008.
Source: WSJ.com

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