Listings Growth Anemic in January

Let’s take a closer look at how listings increased (or didn’t) in January.

Here’s a view of how inventory has grown so far this year:

On-Market Inventory Growth: 2000-2013

After improving over the last few months, on-market inventory growth lost some traction in January, falling to the second-lowest level on record when compared to December.

Next, here’s how many new listings hit the market, comparing 2014 to every year I’ve got data for.

Total New Listings: January 2000-2014

Slightly fewer new listings than January of last year, still way below the “normal” level of 3,000-4,000, with only about 2,000 new listings last month.

The next chart shows the difference between the number of new listings each month and the number of pending sales. Prior to late 2011 this number was almost always positive, except in December, when very few new listings hit the market. From October 2011 through March 2013 this measure was negative, indicating very tight inventory.

New Listings Less Pending Sales 2000-Present

Didn’t quite move back into the black in January, but this year’s -46 level is definitely better than last year’s -537 level. This measure didn’t turn positive last year until April. Hopefully for buyers this year we’ll see it in the black by February.

Finally, let’s take a look at the “stale listings” measure, which uses the total listings, new listings, and pending sales counts to estimate how many listings are “carried over” from one month to the next.

Stale Listings 2000-Present

Stale listings dipped quite a bit this year between December and January. Most years they start increasing starting in February, although last year they fell last year until April.

If January is setting the tone for listings in 2014, expect this year to be another disappointing one for buyers hoping for good selection.

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About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.


  1. 1
    whatsmyname says:

    RE: New Listings Less Pending Sales 2000 – Present:
    “This measure didn’t turn positive last year until April. Hopefully for buyers this year we’ll see it in the black by February.”

    There is always hope, but so far February has moved this measure in the opposite direction of your hopes for every year that you have data.

  2. 2
    ARDELL says:

    I don’t want to say “duh, we were in the Super Bowl.” Kary, can you say that for me? :)

  3. 3
    Chris says:

    2,000 listings per month is the new world order. Most people who don’t own a home are not interested in buying one anymore, they are just fine renting for the rest of their lives. Those who own a home are putting money into home improvement rather than trying to trade up in a market where the quality of inventory sucks. Home ownership is becoming another measure of the wealth gap with home ownership trending toward 1% and renting trending toward 99%.

  4. 4
    sam says:

    Wasnt the stats preview title “inching towards balance edition”? So how come the listings growth be anemic and we are inching towards balance. Arent these two orthogonal?

  5. 5

    RE: sam @ 4 – Maybe the comments to that other thread convinced Tim that the improvement wasn’t really that significant.

  6. 6
    Mike says:

    RE: sam @ 4 – often after an animal gets hit by a car it will inch towards safety before a second car comes along and flattens it. Today’s home buyers are facing a similar scenario.

  7. 7

    RE: Mike @ 6RE: Chris @ 3 – I think you to are totally missing what’s happening in the current market. It’s exactly the opposite of what you think.

    This reminds me of the people who think houses in Ballard are over-priced. I don’t want to live in Ballard either, but that doesn’t mean that everyone thinks like I do.

  8. 8
    adam says:

    oh c mon kary, you brokers never think the market is overpriced. it always perfect or in perfect equilibrium. what we have is asset price inflation, just like in 06/07. arm loans are rife, wells offically made it clear that they are doing sub prime, we dont have wage inflation or price inflation to balance the asset price inflation. this musical chairs will stop and fed will pick winners and losers again.

  9. 9

    RE: adam @ 8 – The topic wasn’t price.

    Chris was claiming that we have a problem because people are not interested in owning houses anymore. That’s not the reason our inventory levels are low and buyers are facing multiple offer situations.

    Mike was claiming people were moving toward “safety.” If that were the case, people wouldn’t be buying up all the listings that are coming on the market as fast as they come on the market. Moving toward safety is what people were doing back in 2008-2012.

    As to your point though, clearly the market can be off, such as when it’s affected by a “buyer frenzy.” Per Google I’ve used that term about 15 times. And prior to the peak I was expressing concern that the market could rise too fast. But the same thing can happen the other direction too, with over-selling. So the thing I disagree with are studies that claim one market is 20% over-priced, or other such nonsense. I will agree that the market is what the market is, but where the market is doesn’t indicate where it will be headed. The higher the market is the more likely it is to go down, except when that isn’t the case (buyer frenzy situations).

  10. 10
    whatsmyname says:

    We here at the whatsmyfoundation are pleased to present you with the seattle bubble Housing Market Cycle Clock. This handy tool provides action advice for each “hour” in the cycle. You’re welcome.

    9 o’clock – want house for living, sellers too greedy; don’t buy
    10 o’clock – can’t buy what rejected earlier; don’t buy
    11 o’clock – rise unsustainable; don’t buy
    12 o’clock – pain coming to stupid sellers; don’t buy
    1 o’clock – don’t catch a falling knife
    2 o’clock – don’t catch a falling knife
    3 o’clock – don’t catch a falling knife
    4 o’clock – don’t catch a falling knife
    5 o’clock – don’t catch a falling knife
    6 o’clock – don’t need the exact bottom; don’t buy
    7 o’clock – sucker’s rally, terrible inventory; don’t buy
    8 o’clock – wait for the real correction, it will be brutal; don’t buy

  11. 11
    Erik says:

    RE: whatsmyname @ 10
    Sounds about right. I will be renting in Fremont until we see a turn around. Renting seems like the only good option right now unless you are willing to live somewhere unpleasant. Prices in the nice areas seem to be high.

    Kary- I would live in Ballard, but it is too expensive. Those places never really went down much. I am hoping I can snag a place in fremont or ballard at 8 O’clock when housing prices dump again hopefully.

  12. 12
    Blurtman says:

    RE: Erik @ 11 – White Center.

  13. 13
    mike says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 7 – Actually I bought a house in 2012 about 2 miles from Ballard Ave – close enough to be there in 5 minutes, but not right in the hot area. Of course if I drive to Ballard I might spend another 10 minutes looking for parking on a Saturday night…

    I was referring to current buyers that don’t have the benefit of buying near the market bottom and face an increasingly difficult inventory situation with no clear end in sight.

    I’m seeing trashed s-holes in my own neighborhood sell for $500K+ – it wasn’t that bad when I was shopping.

  14. 14
    Jonness says:

    By Kary L. Krismer @ 9:

    And prior to the peak I was expressing concern that the market could rise too fast.

    As I recall, prior to the peak and even post peak you were an extreme housing bull. When people claimed prices would go lower in the future, you basically called them crazy or stupid. Now-a-days you are claiming to have foreseen the housing crash prior to it having occurred?

  15. 15
    Jonness says:

    By whatsmyname @ 10:

    This handy tool provides action advice for each “hour” in the cycle. […] don’t buy

    It was difficult for me to buy when prices were falling, rates were falling, and my down payment was going up. So I waited for a sustainable change in the housing climate. Picking the bottom wasn’t necessarily my intention. I was more about keeping my eye on the affordability chart. When it hit it’s absolute peak, I decided my days of commuting several hours to work every day were over. So far, it’s turned out to have been a great decision. :)

    Like myself, a lot of the old housing bears caved in somewhere around the bottom when the math began to pencil out. Yes, housing could double-dip, but then again, a comet could strike the earth and kill us all. At some point, all of us old misers had to begin to live a little.

    But for those still on the sidelines, the game continues. And salaries vs. house prices still matter.

  16. 16

    By Jonness @ 14:

    By Kary L. Krismer @ 9:

    And prior to the peak I was expressing concern that the market could rise too fast.

    As I recall, prior to the peak and even post peak you were an extreme housing bull. When people claimed prices would go lower in the future, you basically called them crazy or stupid. Now-a-days you are claiming to have foreseen the housing crash prior to it having occurred?

    Your recollection is faulty, perhaps confusing me with Ardell, ( ) but there’s Google if you want to find a link. But I’ll offer this:

    Note I comment on agents not being able to predict the future and the percent annual increase in prices that would cause me concern.

    Note there were a lot of trolls back there in the day. My favorite was Aldreth, who once thought that Bank of America was going under because his bank machine wouldn’t work, and had some other really bizarre theory about pennies and the collapse of the economy.

  17. 17
    wreckingbull says:

    RE: Jonness @ 15 – You did what most of us did: continually evaluate the P/E. When it penciled out, you bought. Now that I think about it, most of the bearish long-timers on this site are now homeowners. That comment was just a typical troll.

  18. 18
    whatsmyname says:

    RE: wreckingbull @ 16 – Congratulations. When did you go from bear to buyer? I missed the announcement.

  19. 19
    wreckingbull says:

    RE: whatsmyname @ 18 – Beginning of 2011. Sorry, I must have missed the memo re: formal announcement process.

  20. 20
    Jonness says:

    By Kary L. Krismer @ 16:

    Your recollection is faulty, perhaps confusing me with Ardell

    Kary: Here’s what you said in the link you provided:

    [housing] markets that are overpriced tend to continue up.

    Let the facts speak for themselves: You wound up buying your house at the exact peak of the market, and afterwards you continually recommended that buyers not wait to buy because it was impossible to predict the future (typical Realtor speak). To the contrary, I recommended that buyers wait it out, and I wound up buying my house at the exact bottom. During my wait, you continually claimed I didn’t know what I was doing, and you also claimed I would never buy a house.

    I was right, and you were wrong. Here’s a view from my living room window:

  21. 21

    RE: Jonness @ 20 – Way to lose credibility–quote something out of context. For others, here is the context.

    LinusK wrote: “That an overpriced market will run out of fools is certain. When it will happen… well, if anybody could tell you that, he’d be a trillionaire.”

    Exactly. Although I’d add that markets that are overpriced tend to continue up. When a stock breaks through it’s record high, there’s no telling how high it will go, but once it breaks through for any significant period, up is more likely than down typically.

    You only quoted the portion in bold and fraudulently added the word “housing” in front of the quote. Dishonest much?

    So clearly I indicated that a market could head down any any point, but I did note that record prices tend to lead to more record prices for a time. That’s basically what happened in the Seattle market for the 20 years prior to the peak, but you also see that with stocks all the time.

    As to my house purchase, I’ve explained that many times, and how I was better off compared to keeping my old house which declined in value more. But to update I’ve gotten well over $100,000 of rental value out of the house too–tax free. So I guess I could have lived in a place I didn’t like as much and lost more money, or moved. Doesn’t seem terribly smart to me, which is probably why you would prefer that other course of conduct.

    As to others buying for personal use I think I’ve made my position perfectly clear. As to your purchase, don’t confuse luck with skill. You were lucky at the timing of buying your house, but in any case you probably could have gotten a better deal at any time between the purchase of my house and your house. You’re confusing county data for what you can actually buy a house for if you look hard enough. You’re also assuming you got a good buy on your house. Your purchase could have been like that $800,000 purchase Blurtman found–well over market value. And in any case we have to take your word for when you bought and if you bought, and you clearly have proven your willing to twist facts to make claims. You’re probably still living at home with your parents. That’s the benefit of being anonymous. You can claim anything, like with the quote above, but unlike the quote the falsity of your claim cannot be proven.

    Finally, undoubtedly you’ll post some other misleading post here. I’m now out of posts on this thread, so look for my response here:

  22. 22
    whatsmyname says:

    RE: wreckingbull @ 19
    Of course, there is no formal announcement process; but due to the anchoring effect, it is often difficult for the casual observer to perceive a sea-change in another poster’s market view. So it helps to understand your talk by seeing your walk.

    Your timing was excellent as far as maximizing both pricing power and selection. You are no doubt benefitting very well from this rising market. Congratulations, again.

  23. 23
    Jonness says:

    By Kary L. Krismer @ 21:

    Way to lose credibility–quote something out of context.

    It’s you who are quoting your own self out of context. If you read through the entire thread you linked, you will see that it’s about you insulting the authors of 2 articles that predicted Seattle house prices would lose about 20% between 2007 and 2012.

    In the exact quote you are referring to that I supposedly misquoted, you left out the full context of the prior post. You were in fact claiming that it’s impossible to predict the future, and Seattle house prices would most likely continue to go up for a long time to come. In brevity I added “housing” inside of [] marks, which clearly indicate that I paraphrased my interpretation of your words, and this portion of the quote was not yours.

    Yes, you did say that IF prices went up at a sustained rate of more than 15%/year, you would become very concerned about the market taking a breather. But you went on to say that much of the house price appreciation we had seen was the result of people buying better designed homes that were clearly worth more than yesterday’s functionally obsolete homes; thus, the rate of high appreciation was perceived and not real.

    You have never, ever expressed concern that Seattle house prices increased too much and were in danger of a correction. You have only stated it’s theoretically possible house prices CAN go to high. As usual, in the thread you linked, you claimed everybody else was stupid or crazy, and you were the only experienced professional in the room that knew anything about housing market economics. And of course, you turned out to be 100% wrong, and the people you insulted turned out to be 100% right. But what’s new under the sun?

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