Rates, tight inventory dampen California home sales

The housing market remains on track for a strong year despite a tight inventory of homes for sale. Home sales bounced back in May after a relatively weak April, and sales year-to-date are running at an annual rate of 5.2 million units, compared to 4.7 million units for the first five months of 2016.

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Higher prices and elevated mortgage rates created some headwinds for sales. But experts point to a tight inventory of homes on the market as the main reason why more homes aren’t changing hands.

California home sales dipped 5.9% from 2012 to 2013 as the market felt the pinch of tighter inventory levels and higher prices, the California Association of Realtors reported this past month.

And what will the real estate market do in 2019 if mortgage rates climb even higher? In June 2018, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) updated its long-range forecast. They predicted that average 30-year mortgage rates would rise to 4.9% by the fourth quarter of 2018, and inch upward in 2019 as well.

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Currently, 2019 year-to-date (YTD) home sales are 6% below 2018. 2018 ended with 442,000 home sales in California. This was 19,900 fewer sales than took place in 2017, amounting to a decrease of 4.3%. For perspective, 2018’s 442,000 homes sales volume was 41% below peak sales volume experienced in 2005.

A slowdown in U.S. home sales is weighing on homebuilder stocks. Most of the builders are down more than 15 percent this year, even as the broader market has been on a milestone-setting run. The S&P 500, the market’s benchmark index, is up about 8 percent for the year. Builder shares were already having a rough year as investors worried that rising mortgage rates could dampen sales.

Tight inventories and strong demand fueled by a healthy economy and rising interest rates kept home sales in Dane County in a strong seller’s market through the first two months of this year, according to an economy professor who provides data for a state realtors group. Although Dane County has.

"Existing home sales look okay today with some clouds further out on the horizon from rising home prices and mortgage rates not enough to make us worry yet about the outlook this year," said Chris.

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