Buyers’ Perceptions of Housing Inventory Worsen for Third Straight Quarter


In the first quarter of 2018, the starting point of the Housing Trends Report, only 16% of buyers expected easier availability for a home in the months ahead.  The share soared to 36% by the final quarter of 2020 (during the COVID-19 pandemic), only to drop throughout 2021, reaching 25% by the third quarter.  Now, 66% expect that finding the right home will be harder or not change much, up from 54% in the last quarter of 2020.  This worsening in buyers’ perceptions of inventory accurately reflects the scarcity of homes for-sale – particularly existing homes – during 2021.

Expectations that housing availability will ease up declined in all four regions of the country between the final quarter of 2020 and the third quarter of 2021.  In the Northeast, the share of buyers expecting the house search to get easier dropped from 44% to 29%; in the Midwest, from 23% to 16%; in the South, from 32% to 22%; and in the West, from 40% to 35%.  From the second to third quarter of 2021, however, perceptions of availability did improve in the West.

Another way to assess buyers’ perceptions on inventory is to ask whether they are seeing more/fewer/about the same number of homes (that they like and can afford) available on the market.  Results to this question further confirm a decline in buyer’s perceptions of housing availability.  In the final quarter of 2020, 41% of buyers (a series high) reported seeing more homes available for-sale, but the share has now dropped in each of the first three quarters of 2021, to 38%, 33%, and 31%, respectively.

Following the national trend, the share of buyers seeing more homes for-sale declined in all regions between the final quarter of 2020 and the third quarter of 2021:  from 48% to 38% in the Northeast; 30% to 26% in the Midwest; 37% to 25% in the South; and 42% to 36% in the West.  The share did improve in the West region between the second and third quarters, however.

* The Housing Trends Report (HTR) is a research product created by the NAHB Economics team with the goal of measuring prospective home buyers’ perceptions about the availability and affordability of homes for-sale in their markets.  The HTR is produced quarterly to track changes in buyers’ perceptions over time.  All data are derived from national polls of representative samples of American adults conducted for NAHB by Morning Consult.  Results are seasonally adjusted.  A description of the poll’s methodology and sample characteristics can be found here.  This is the third in a series of six posts highlighting results for the third quarter of 2021. See previous posts on plans to buy and new vs. existing preference.

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