Welcome to the Spring Home-Buying Season

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According to realtor.com‘s Weekly Recovery Report, the home-buying season’s usual May peak has shifted to August, as buyers and sellers rebound from the spring’s COVID disruption.

New data shows that growth in the pace of sales, demand and prices have surpassed last year levels, while inventory continues to lag seasonal normals.

The realtor.com Housing Market Recovery Index reached 103.8 nationwide for the week ending Aug. 1, posting a 0.1 point increase over last week and bringing the index 3.8 points above the pre-COVID baseline.

“Real estate activity in the U.S. has regained its strength and continues on an upward trajectory as we enter the middle of the summer,” says Javier Vivas, director of economic research for realtor.com. “However, a sustained seller comeback still hinges on back-to-school plans and extended lockdowns. The housing market will need to remain above pre-COVID levels for at least another 10 weeks to make up for the lost activity in the second quarter of the year. As we head into fall, an anticipated resurgence in COVID cases and economic aftershocks are likely to create an uphill battle for home buyers and sellers.”

Time on market is now four days faster than last year. As a result of still too few homes for sale and mortgage rates at or near-record lows, homes are selling even faster than a year ago nationwide and in many metros, a plus for sellers looking to move quickly.

Median listing prices grew at 9.4 percent over last year, continuing to pick up speed. The strength of prices against an uncertain economic landscape that includes a double-digit unemployment rate is perhaps the most surprising aspect of how the housing market has fared – a dramatic departure from the last time unemployment was in double-digit territory. However, looking at the sheer number of buyers, low mortgage rates, and limited sellers, the strength of home prices – which are now growing at the highest pace since January 2018 – makes sense.

New listings were down 11 percent. The gradual improvement in the trend of new sellers listing homes took a pause this week despite continued price gains. Selling a home now may involve some extra precautions, but it is very possible. Continued recovery in new listings is needed before we can see sales fully recover.

Total inventory was down 35 percent. With buyer interest high and the number of new sellers still lagging, the total number of homes for sale continues to dwindle. These conditions set the stage for further price gains ahead, a trend which could eventually cause buyer demand to cool.

Regionally, the West (110.5) continues to lead the pack in the recovery, with the overall index now visibly above the pre-COVID benchmark. The Northeast (108.2) remains above recovery pace and continues to improve, while the South (99.5) and Midwest (98.8) continue to lag. Locally, a total of 29 markets have crossed the recovery benchmark, with the overall recovery index showing greatest recovery in New York, Las Vegas, Seattle, Boston and Philadelphia.

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