The United States real estate market has an inventory problem. When there are over 18 million empty homes across the country we have no reason to continue to build new homes. If this were a logical marketplace we would tell builders to take a 2 year moratorium until absorption met demand.
Instead we have builders building 2.1 million homes last year. Yikes! And of those homes almost half of them are now sitting empty. The speculative years between 2000 and 2005 drove construction of homes not based upon need in the marketplace but demand created by speculators. When that demand dried up many of these homes are sitting empty and forlorn.
Now we see in the first quarter of 2008 construction is down significantly which is a great thing. The key thing is to get rid of this overhang in inventory and fill up some of the homes. Once that occurs the market can regain it’s equilibrium and prices will stabilize.
The homeowner-vacancy rate rose to a record 2.9% in the first quarter from 2.8% in the fourth quarter, about 1 percentage point higher than normal. The vacancy rate has jumped in all four regions of the country, as well as in cities, suburbs and rural areas since the housing bubble exploded.The total U.S. housing stock increased by 2.1 million to 129.4 million in the past year, with about half of that gain accounted for by the increase in vacancies. Much of the newer stock of housing is vacant, the data show.Of all housing units built for owner-occupancy since April 2000, 10.2% were vacant, up from 8.8% in the fourth quarter and 4.7% two years ago.While the vacancy rate for single-family homes has risen to 2.5%, the most dramatic increase in vacancies has been in smaller condominium projects. via Marketwatch