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Checking in on housing inventory: Are things finally looking up for buyers?

 The Mortgage Reports Contributor

Inventory on the increase

Housing inventory is finally on the rise. According to new data, January saw for-sale inventory jump 1.2 percent over December, marking the first time in half a decade that has happened. The last time a calendar year kicked off with an increase in inventory was 2014.


Positive signs abound

According to data from Zillow, for-sale listings rose more than a full percent last month. More than 1.6 million homes were on the market.

Inventory has now risen in four of the last five months, following a 44-month downward spiral dating back to 2015.

Aaron Terrazas, the chief economist for Zillow, says the spike should give buyers some hope going into the hot spring season.

“The small bump in inventory to start the year may give those buyers eager to get an early jump on the spring home shopping season some reason for optimism after years of consistent inventory declines,” he said. He was quick to temper that though, adding “inventory levels overall remain constrained.”


Market-level increases

Data also shows housing inventory is up in 28 of the 25 largest markets. In San Jose, inventory showed a 42.9 percent year-over-year increase last month. In similarly hot Seattle, it jumped 36.9 percent.

Other cities with big annual gains in inventory were San Diego (31.9 percent), Los Angeles (29.1 percent) and San Francisco (25 percent).

“For the past several years, many homebuyers may have felt they couldn’t catch a break as the number of homes available for sale continued to shrink each passing month,” Terrazas said. “But something shifted during the second half of 2018, and while home buyers aren’t yet out of the woods, there is a glimmer of light on the horizon. The number of homes on the market is hesitantly inching higher – now approaching the highest level in a year and a half. And in the priciest markets, the jump has been even more definitive.”

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