The Key Fact Missing From Today’s Existing Home Sales Headlines

Existing home sales for January 2009In reading the headlines this morning, you’d think that last month’s Existing Home Sales figure signaled more trouble ahead for the housing market. 


Quite the contrary.


Beyond the attention-grabbing headlines is the real story;  the one that shows — once again — that housing market fundaments are coming back into balance.


As home values tick lower, it appears, value buyers are stepping in and snapping up supply.  It’s true that the number of homes sold fell to its lowest levels in 12 years, but we can’t ignore the fact that the number of homes available to buy fell, too.



  • Banks have put the brakes on foreclosures
  • Economic uncertainty is reducing job-related relocations
  • Builders have all but stopped building new homes

The national housing supply is as low as it’s been in more than a year.


Based on the current rate of sales activity, the national housing supply would be 100% sold in 9.6 months — a two-month improvement from the high point set in June 2008. 


Demand for homes is expected to rise, too:



  • The Federal Reserve is trying to hold mortgage rates low
  • Fannie Mae is opening its checkbook to real estate investors
  • The stimulus package is granting tax credits to first-timers

So, it’s not that the headlines are wrong; it’s just that they’re incomplete. 


In looking at all of the data and not just one sliver of it, we can find hope. Falling supply plus rising demand leads home values higher and that’s the basis for a recovery.


(Image courtesy: Wall Street Journal Online)

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