Housing: a choppy, inconsistent recovery

In my City Talk column today, I summarize some of the latest home sales data for the Savannah area. Single-family home sales were essentially flat compared to a year ago, but inventories are shrinking because of a decreased pace of listings.

I’m not going to recap that column here, but am just adding a few additional comments and links about the choppiness — i.e., slowness — of the housing recovery.

The decreased inventory in the Savannah area is pretty much in keeping with national trends. In the latest NAR data, the number of listings is down more than 20% year over year.

That’s a big number, and will certainly help support prices.

As Calculated Risk discusses, housing starts actually decline a little in March. Here’s a graph:

As I’ve noted a zillion times now, new residential investment is usually a driver of economic recoveries, but we just have too much inventory right now to fuel any significant increase in new construction.

Calculated Risk also notes that short sales are now outpacing foreclosures. This is a positive trend. Rather than go through the lengthy process of foreclosure which often results in a bank holding onto a vacant property for many months, the banks are cutting deals that move the property from one owner to another relatively quickly.

Despite the choppiness of the housing market recovery, the U.S. economy looks like to stay out of recession unless there is a significant external shock — or a combination of smaller ones.