What happens to listings?

As a follow-on to Tim’s post yesterday about the practice of relisting properties, here is a look at what has been happening to inventory over the past few years, and how the trends have changed over time.

The questions “what is happening with all of those listings” and “how many sellers just give up?” have come up a number of time from readers. The latter question is particularly interesting – because it might tell you something about seller psychology. Logically, one would expect sellers to rarely pull listings in an up market. The rising tide is probably lifting all boats. But in a down market, what happens? Will sellers start pulling listings because they expect prices to go up soon and want to wait out the dip? Will they keep their homes on the market because they need to sell, or because they think things will be worse if they wait?

The NWMLS reporting on inventory is decidedly opaque. They report homes sold, pending, added, and active. What they don’t tell you is how many homes remained on the market, or how many sellers just gave up and took their homes off the market. However, if one looks across months, some pretty basic algebra allows you to back into how many homes are de-listed versus left on the market.

  • You can get to delisted inventory as follows: [(Beginning inventory + New listings) – (Pending listings (sold) + Ending Inventory) = Delisted]. Take the available stock less what is either sold or left over, and it tells you how many homes disappeared from the listings that month without being sold…
  • Armed with that, you can calculate how many homes stayed on the market as follows: [Beginning inventory – Pending listings (sold) – Delisted = Stayed]. Take the total starting inventory, and subtract those that sold or gave up, and all you have left is the stuff that stayed on the market!

Using those formulas applied to the last 9 years of inventory data, we can peer inside what has been happening with listings before and during the boom:

What happens to Listings?

On the left axis, we have the average number of homes delisted, sold, added, and staying on the market for each year from 1999-2007. These are displayed as stacked columns, with the reductions from inventory shown as negative, and the additions/remaining inventory shown as positive. On the right axis, we have average inventory throughout the year displayed as the black line.

What you can see on this chart is that new listing activity and sales activity were remarkably even across the past 9 years. New listings averaged about 4500 homes per month, plus or minus no more than 500 units. Sales averaged about 3,000 homes per month and again were typically plus or minus less than 500 units (2005-06 were +~700). Based on the consistency of this data, it appears that the bulk of the of the variability in average inventory levels is driven by whether sellers choose to stay on the market or give up.

Staying on market versus delisted

During the period for which I have data – the average ratio of delisted/stayed was 1:3. In other words, sellers were 3 times as likely to stay on the market as they were to pull their listing. However, the average is deceiving. Over the course of the boom, this ratio has fallen steadily: from just over 1:2 in 1999 to the current level of 1:5, where it has been from 2003-07. Sellers psychology during the boom years appears to have shifted to where they have been over twice as likely to “ride it out” than they were previously.

I don’t know what the long term averages are, they could be higher or lower. Either way, it will be interesting to see if this behavior changes significantly as the market slows down.

0.00 avg. rating (0% score) - 0 votes


  1. 1
    Mike2 says:

    Here’s what happened in the DC market. Inventory shot up as the boom ended in 2006. Then in 2007, inventory held steady or decreased slightly as people (presumably) decided to wait it out. 2008 appears to be the year of reckoning. Inventory is currently up 50% over both 2006 and 2007 and price declines seem to be accelerating at a breathtaking speed.

  2. 2
    patient says:

    Thanks for the data dj!
    Mike2, interresting though it might be that Seattle bypasses the 2007 behaviour in the DC scenario and jumps straight to your 2008 behaviour due to the changes in lending and market sentiment that took place mid 2007. It seems that those radical changes could override normal or previously observed behaviours.

  3. 3
    Sandy says:

    If you subscribe to Altos Research, their listing data for the last 2 months is really interesting. In my area, about a third of listings went off the market in November and December. In January, they all came back on. Most came on priced significantly lower. I think I’ll post the latest graph over on the SREP blog sometime soon.

  4. 4
    AndySeattle says:

    Well done DJO!

    This is one of my favorite features of this site; the data breakdown and displayed in an easy to consume manner. Thank you!

  5. 5
    NostraDamnUs says:

    I admire you expertise in producing statistics that tell us absolutely next to nothing. But hey, it’s your website, keep it up.

  6. 6
    sf_boomerang says:

    Awwww, who’s a Mister Grumpypants?

    NostraDamnUs is a Mister Grumpypants! Yes he is! He’s a grumpy-wumpy-pants!

  7. 7
    Tsuru says:

    I admire you expertise in producing statistics that tell us absolutely next to nothing. But hey, it’s your website, keep it up.

    And I admire your expertise in adding absolutely nothing to the conversation besides snarky comments. Please, don’t keep it up.

  8. 8
    Everett_Tom says:

    Hmm.. wonder if this will change the charts above. (It’s a report on the Boeing Eng. Union thinking about striking..)..

  9. 9
    matthew says:

    Nostra is just pissed because he had to pull his two flips off the market and pray for a spring bounce!

  10. 10
    Garth says:

    Is it possible to calculate an average # of days listed per property sold?

  11. 11
    old timer says:

    I don’t really know about the listing thing, but I’ve noticed on my walks that many houses no longer have the ‘For Sale’ sign on them, but when I look closely, I see that they still have keyboxes on the doorknob, and most are empty inside.

    Something I read in the Sunday Times stated that 60% of King County homes are owner occupied. Could this be true? Who/what has the other 40%?

  12. 12

    […] In order to investigate this, I went back to the inventory analysis methods that Deejayoh pioneered in his February post “What happens to listings?” […]

  13. 13

    […] order to satisfy my curiosity on this, I went back to the listings chart we have used in a couple previous posts, and there was definitely something unusual about […]

  14. 14

    […] up, here’s an update to our listing breakdown graph, introduced and explained by Deejayoh in February this year. For historic charts of this data going back to 2001, check the ‘delisting’ […]

  15. 15

    […] / sales breakdown chart for King County SFH. For a full explanation of the data below, refer to this post. Be sure to check out the delisting tag for previous posts on this […]

  16. 16

    […] For a full explanation of this chart, check out the post What happens to listings. […]

Leave a Reply

Use your email address to sign up with Gravatar for a custom avatar.
Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Please read the rules before posting a comment.