Shortage of homes for sale creates fierce competition
By Alejandro Lazo, Los Angeles Times
June 10, 2012
The newest problem for the slowly improving housing market isn’t a shortage of serious buyers, it’s a shortage of good homes.
Would-be buyers are packing open houses and scrambling to make offers on properties before they are even listed. Bidding wars are erupting. And real estate agents are vying fiercely to represent the few sellers that do exist.
Housing inventory has sunk to levels not seen since the bubble years. The number of American homes with a “for sale” sign hit 2.5 million in April, the lowest number for an April since 2006, according to the National Assn. of Realtors.
David Dennick, who lives in Echo Park and works as a television editor, has been searching for a home with his wife, Denise, for about two months. The couple have already bid on three properties. They are hoping to find a home for less than $525,000, which is $25,000 more than they originally had hoped to spend.
“It is much more competitive than we thought,” said Dennick, standing in the entrance of an Eagle Rock open house on a recent Sunday. “It is just frustrating because we thought we would really be able to buy a house; we are a middle-class family.”
The sharp drop in inventory along with rock-bottom interest rates have helped stabilize even some of the hardest-hit markets, including the Southland, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Miami. Some real estate professionals are concerned that the lack of inventory might turn off potential buyers, stifling the recent recovery in home sales.
The much-predicted foreclosure wave that was expected to dump more homes onto the market has not materialized. Fewer borrowers are entering default, and banks are better managing the properties they do have on their books.
In addition, professional investors bankrolled by private equity firms and hedge funds are pouncing on bank-owned homes, often turning them into rentals.