Orange County Housing Report: An Early 2017 Peak

August 13, 2017

A low inventory peak means a hot seller’s market for quite some time.

Active Inventory Peak: the active inventory has been low for years, but this year it has been exceptionally low.

The Orange County housing market has been frustrating buyers for years now and 2017 has proved to be especially frustrating. With 7% fewer FOR SALE signs this year compared to last year, there just have not been enough homes to satiate the voracious appetite of buyers.

As a result of low inventory and off-the-chart demand, Orange County homes have appreciated non-stop since 2012. In the past year alone (July ’17 over July ’16), the median sales price has risen by 5.5%, and since 2012 has risen by 80%. Even with a rising median sales price, the historically low interest rate environment is keeping homes affordable. And, interest rates are projected to remain low for the rest of the year and into 2018 as well.

An anemic inventory is only going to fuel future appreciation. Buyers will continue to compete with limited choices and multiple offers will persist, especially in the lower ranges, homes priced below $750,000. The inventory will remain low for quite some time because the active listing inventory peaked about a month ago, not quite reaching the 6,000 home mark. For perspective, the active inventory needs to remain above 8,000 homes for quite some time in order for the housing market to move from a seller’s market to a balanced market, one that does not favor a buyer or seller.

In the past couple of weeks, the active inventory shed 90 homes and now totals 5,877. The peak occurred a month ago at 5,983 homes. Last year’s peak was at 7,329 homes, 22% higher, or 1,346 more FOR SALE signs than this year. There are significantly fewer homes on the market throughout Orange County. The difference is substantial in certain areas of the county. For example, in Aliso Viejo there are 40% fewer homes on the market today compared to 2016 at this time. There are 79 available homes compared to 131. It was challenging finding a home last year, but this year has been significantly worse. With the exception of four areas, Corona del Mar, Cypress, Dana Point, and Portola Hills, there simply are not enough homes on the market compared to a year ago today.

This year’s peak is the lowest peak since Reports On Housing started tracking the local housing market back in 2004. Keeping that in mind, where will the Orange County housing market go from here? First, the active inventory will continue to drop though the end of the year, picking up steam in September. By that point, housing will have moved onto the Autumn Market when fewer homeowners will opt to place their homes on the market with the best time of the year to sell, the Spring and Summer Markets, officially in the rearview mirror.

With such a low peak, the expected seasonal drop in the inventory from now until New Year’s will result in a very anemic start to 2018. It may dip to the record lows of 2013, when there were only 3,161 homes to start the year. Quite simply, there were not enough homes to keep up with the strong demand and bidding wars escalated during the spring. That could be the case this coming year in spite of high prices. Additionally, the low interest rate environment will help fuel another crazy start to the Orange County housing market.

Demand:  Demand increased by 2% in the past couple of weeks.

Demand, the number of homes placed into escrow within the prior month, increased by 55 pending sales, or 2%, in the past two-weeks and now totals 2,890. Demand is either near the same or considerably higher in every price range except for properties priced below $500,000. With 41% fewer homes available below $500,000 compared to this time last year, it is no wonder that demand is off by 20% year over year in this range.

Luxury End:  Luxury demand dropped by 1% in the past couple of weeks and the inventory increased by only 7 homes.

In the past two weeks, demand for homes above $1.25 million decreased from 373 to 369 pending sales, a 1% drop, the. The luxury home inventory increased from 2,065 homes to 2,072, nearly the same. The luxury end is not evolving that much right now.

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