The housing market across the country has been on fire over the past decade. Prices remain elevated; but many people insist that’s because there aren’t enough homes available. But is this really the case? Does shadow inventory impact the housing market and prices?
There are numerous factors in play in the housing market such as supply and demand, regional economic conditions, unemployment rates, shadow inventory, and mortgage rates. The last two take on special significance in the current housing scenario. Let’s take a closer look at these to see how they are likely to influence prices in the future.
The Impact of Shadow Inventory
The term “shadow inventory” refers to the homes which are kept off the market in an attempt to increase demand. Limited inventory will push up demand which in turn boosts prices. A report released by CoreLogic, a leader in information, analytic, and business services, states that the current residential shadow inventory remains elevated. This shadow inventory includes properties which are seriously delinquent, in foreclosure, and those held as real estate owned (REO) by lending institutions.
Florida, California, Illinois, New York, and New Jersey account for nearly half the properties that make up the shadow inventory. In simple terms, this means that shadow inventory has not had the negative impact on the housing market that many had expected. Todd Bezemos is an economist and housing credit advisor with lease to own housing aggregation service HomeStarSearch. In his capacity working directly with first time home buyers, Bezemos is afforded a unique perspective on the current housing market. He posits that “many homeowners are wary of selling because they have a low interest rate mortgage. And this has prevented the market from being swamped by an excess supply of homes.”
The Mortgage Rate Factor
Mortgage rates also play a significant role in determining which way the housing market will move. When mortgage rates are abnormally low as they were between 2010 and 2021, it’s due to excessive government bond buying. Also known as quantitative easing (QE), this is an attempt to hike the price of mortgage-backed bonds which will reduce the interest rate on these bonds. Another reason for low interest rates is the US economy.
The foreclosure process can be a long one in many states. This supports the theory that the market will avoid a flood of bank-owned properties that will sink prices yet again. As homes gradually enter the market upon foreclosure, eager buyers line up to close on a fabulous deal. This ensures that the demand outpaces supply and prevents prices from sinking. Barring any kind of major political or economic setback, analysts foresee interest rates remaining at current levels. Bezemos says this is because the main purpose of keeping interest rates low during tough times is to provide a boost to the housing market. But when the market recovers – and it has been healthy for many years – there is no further need for rates to remain low.
The housing market is clearly in a time of transition. Although the buyers’ market of the past decade seems to be on its way out.
Photo Credit: Casey Serin