Need to Sell Your House? It’s Time to Hustle

If you need to sell your home in the next few months, I’d get on with it. As we enter the spring selling season, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the period during which sellers had the leverage in the housing market is over.

The surge in mortgage rates last year led most potential sellers to hold onto their homes and their rock-bottom borrowing costs. Would-be buyers found little available inventory and watched prices climb despite terrible affordability.

But the “5 Ds” that motivate moves — divorce, downsizing, diapers, diamonds, and death — don’t sleep for long, regardless of what’s happening with loan rates. For some homeowners, those life events have occurred and moving can’t be put off any longer.

Listings of homes for sale are now rising at a seemingly accelerating pace. New listings climbed 9.8% in the four weeks ending Feb. 18 on a year-over-year basis, the biggest increase in two months, according to real estate brokerage Redfin Corp. That’s pushing active inventory higher in many markets. It’s rising particularly quickly in south Florida, with Punta Gorda and Cape Coral-Fort Myers both showing a more than 100% gain from a year ago, according to Lance Lambert of ResiClub, which provides research and analysis on the housing market.

The pressure on prices is easing as more homes hit the market. The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Home Price Index barely budged in November and December after appreciating strongly in the middle of last year. Real-time data show conditions softening further. Mike Simonsen of Altos Research notes that the percentage of homes for sale that cut their asking price last week rose sequentially, something that hasn’t happened in recent years until much later in the spring. If this keeps up, the share of homes with price cuts will be above year-ago levels in a few weeks.

Sellers Face Softer Market