Starting with the basic ARMLS numbers for May 1, 2017 and comparing them with May 1, 2016 for all areas & types:
- Active Listings (excluding UCB): 19,228 versus 22,171 last year – down 13.3% – and down 2.9% from 19,810 last month
- Active Listings (including UCB): 24,345 versus 27,298 last year – down 10.4% – and down 1.3% compared with 24,794 last month
- Pending Listings: 7,552 versus 7,945 last year – down 4.9% – and down 0.3% from 7,572 last month
- Under Contract Listings (including Pending, CCBS & UCB): 12,796 versus 13,072 last year – down 2.1% – but up 1.9% from 12,556 last month
- Monthly Sales: 8,779 versus 8,523 last year – up 3.0 – but down 6.3% from 9,365 last month
- Monthly Average Sales Price per Sq. Ft.: $151.20 versus $141.21 last year – up 7.1% – and up 1.9% from $148.44 last month
- Monthly Median Sales Price: $232,500 versus $221,000 last year – up 5.2% – and up 1.1% from $230,000 last month
We can see that supply is even further below last year than it was last month, both in total active listings and in active listings with no contract.
The monthly sales rate is down over 6% from last month, but this is a very unfair comparison. March had 23 working days and April, because it had a weekend at both ends, only had 20. With 13% fewer working days we could easily have seen sales drop a lot more than 6%, so demand remained in strong shape throughout April. Sales were up 3% from April 2016, but in 2016 April had 1 extra working day, so that again is a pretty strong result.
Sellers remain in charge of the market in most sectors and price is responding accordingly. The average sales price per sq. ft. is our preferred method of measuring prices and it is up over 7% from last year at this time. The median sales price has stuck at $230,000 for quite some time but we now expect it will pop up to $235,00 in short order. The current reading is up over 5% from last year.
Sales are extremely hampered by lack of supply below $200,000, but above $200,000 supply is more free flowing and sales are up by very large percentages from 2016. Only when we get over $1.5 million does the market start to look less healthy thanks to the abundance of supply at the high end. Despite this, sales volumes of luxury homes have picked up nicely compared to last year, and especially so at the very high end over $3 million.
The contract ratio stands at 66.5 for the overall market, the highest number for the start of any month since August 2013. This number is convincing evidence of a hot market because in 2013, as in 2011 through 2012, the high contract ratios were amplified by the large number of short sales that hung around under contract for a long time without closing. These have disappeared to just a trickle today.
So in summary almost the whole market is humming along with all cylinders firing. However there is little sign that it is going to move up a gear from here. The Cromford® Market Index appears to be making little effort to surpass its recent peak of 147.5 thanks to a very slight weakening in some demand indicators (including listings under contract). We are at a point where the seller remains in firm control but the seller’s advantage is no longer growing stronger.
Whether that brings any significant relief to buyers I very much doubt, because we are entering the period, from early May to early October, when active listing counts tends to fall back, leaving even less supply for them to chose from. In fact if they fall any faster than average that may completely counteract the slight fall in demand we are currently seeing.
This commentary was provided by Michael Orr of the Cromford Report. Michael Orr is the Director of the Real Estate Center at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.