New Home Sales Booming with Existing Home Inventory Low

New York, NY, July 19, 2023-"After mortgage rates shot up last year, Ivory Homes, one of Utah’s largest builders, suddenly had few buyers for the hundreds of homes it had under construction. So Clark Ivory, the chief executive, laid off 9% of his staff, and by January he had slashed construction by nearly 80% from its 2022 peak,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

Then, much to his surprise, sales of new homes started picking up. By May, even though mortgage rates weren’t really budging, sales for all home builders were at their highest level since early 2022. 

“Millions of American homeowners have been reluctant to sell because they can’t afford to give up the low mortgage rates they have now. Only 1.08 million existing homes were for sale or under contract at the end of May, the lowest level for that month in National Association of Realtors data going back to 1999. 

“For many would-be buyers-in Utah and in many other markets-new construction has become the only game in town. Newly built homes accounted for nearly one-third of single-family homes for sale nationwide in May, compared with a historical norm of 10% to 20%. Existing-home sales in May fell 20% year-over-year, while new single-family home sales that month rose 20% on an annual basis.

“That divergence is yet another example of how this housing market is behaving like no other. ‘It’s such a rare thing,’ said Rick Palacios Jr., director of research at Irvine, Calif.-based John Burns Research & Consulting, who predicts the disparity will widen in coming months.

“So far, the home-building revival, coupled with financial incentives offered by builders, is providing only minor relief to prospective buyers. Builders aren’t erecting enough homes to offset the shortage of existing ones on the market, meaning buyers in many places still face bidding wars. On a national basis, home prices have only declined a small amount from their record highs in spring 2022. Interest rates have risen in recent weeks to their highest level this year.”