Feb. 21 - The U.S. inventory of previously-owned homes up for sale now sits at 1.74 million units, a 13-year low, which is likely to push prices higher in the future. Conway G. Gittens reports.
The Daily Digit is 1.74 million. That's how many existing single-family homes, condos and co-ops were for sale around the U.S. in January, according to the National Association of Realtors. The number, 1.74 million, shows housing inventory is drying up and is at its lowest level since December 1999. Reason? Many homeowners are holding back from listing their homes because they owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, at the same time an improving labor market is creating more demand from buyers who were stuck in place during the downturn. That imbalance is creating low inventories and pushing prices higher. Nationwide, the median price for a home resale was almost $174,000 in January, up 12.3 percent from a year earlier. But that is not discouraging buyers. U.S. home resales edged higher last month and, at the current pace of sales, inventories would be exhausted in 4.2 months. Dropping resale inventories are also giving developers more incentive to build homes. Home building is expected to boost the economy more in 2013 than it did last year.