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Are Sellers Waking Up?

By Steve Cook, Real Estate Economy Watch   |   May 7, 2012 at 4:05 PM   |   Comments

It's no secret that this is a good time to buy, but more and more sellers are beginning to think that it's also getting to be a good time to buy… at least better than it was six months ago.

The uptick in seller confidence recorded by two recent surveys comes as concern is growing that seller withdrawal from the market is creating record low inventories that are limiting buyer choice and curtailing sales in the middle of the spring buying season (see Buyers Walk the Walk.). Last week the National Association of Realtors reported total housing inventory at the end of March declined 1.3 percent to 2.37 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.3-month supply at the current sales pace. Listed inventory is 21.8 percent below a year ago.

In Fannie Mae's Monthly National Housing Survey released this morning the percentage of respondents who say it is a good time to sell increased from 10 percent for the fourth straight month to 15 percent; not exactly a band wagon but a trend in the right direction.

"This month's survey shows a continued gradual improvement in consumer sentiment and outlook for home prices," said Doug Duncan, vice president and chief economist of Fannie Mae. "After flatlining at depressed levels for over a year, a growing share of consumers indicate that it is a good time to sell, suggesting rising optimism for the housing market."

A second report, conducted April 15-16 by Rasmussen Reports, found that nearly one-in-five (18 percent) of American adults say now is a good time for someone in their area to sell their house, up six points from a month ago. Some 63 percent disagreed.

Changing attitudes among sellers are clearly linked to price expectations. On average, Americans expect home prices to increase 1.3 percent over the next twelve months in the Fannie Mae survey (the highest value yet recorded). Thirty-two percent of respondents expect home prices to increase over the next 12 months, a slight decline from the sharp spike last month. In turn, confidence in the economy's direction rose to a survey all-time high in April (hitting 37 percent, an increase of 2 percentage points from last month). In the Fannie Mae survey, the percentage of Americans who say it is a good time to buy decreased by 2 percentage points to 71 percent.

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