‘Quiet quitting’ the U.S. housing market: One group of sellers has disappeared


The housing market’s all-important spring season has arrived, but there aren’t many homes going up for sale.

According to Realtor.com (see chart below), only 392,016 U.S. homes were listed for sale in April 2023. That’s below the 497,844 listed in April 2022—a period that was infamous for its tight supply—and far below the 552,082 listed in April 2019.

Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather might have summed up the phenomenon the best when she tweeted last week: “Homeowners are quiet quitting the housing market.”

Fairweather is being a little tongue-in-cheek as she invokes quiet quitting—which refers to employees who are doing minimal work—to describe the lack of new inventory. That said, she’s onto something: Spiked mortgage rates have coincided with less move-up selling/buying.

As Fortune has previously explained, it just doesn’t make a lot of economic sense for someone with a 2% or 3% mortgage rate—one of the biggest financial perks of the pandemic—to sell their home and then try to buy a new home at a 6% mortgage rate. If they did so, they’d get a substantially larger monthly mortgage payment.

Cue a lot of would-be move-up buyers opting to stay put, and fewer homes coming onto the market.

The pullback by move-up sellers/buyers isn’t just felt on the supply side, it’s also delivering a hit to the demand side. See, if a particular homeowner decides to hold off on trading up properties, it means there is one fewer home going on the market and one fewer buyer hitting the market.

So do buyers or sellers have the upper hand?

Unlike the new listing total (i.e. the number of homes going on the market in a given month), the active listing total (i.e. total inventory on the market) is a better indicator for the balance in a market at any given time.

While April 2023 saw 21.2% fewer U.S. homes go up for sale (i.e. “new listings” shown in the chart above) compared to the same month a year earlier, there are actually 49.3% more homes available for sale (i.e. “active listings” shown in the chart below) in April 2023 than in April 2022. The reason? Last year’s mortgage rate spike saw homes sit on the market longer as days on market increased, which allowed inventory to pile up even as fewer homes came up for sale.

However, we’re still very far from a national buyers’ market. In fact, active listings (i.e. inventory) in April 2023 was 50.3% below levels seen in April 2019.

In theory, a market with inventory above pre-pandemic levels has seen the power dynamic shift dramatically in buyers’ favor. Markets with inventory levels far below pre-pandemic levels, on the other hand, have seen less of a dramatic shift.

The searchable chart below provides active listings/inventory data for the nation’s 100 largest housing markets.

Among the country’s 100 largest housing markets, just one (the slumped Austin housing market) is back to pre-pandemic (i.e. 2019) inventory levels.

Meanwhile, the other 99 major markets are still below April 2019 inventory levels. That includes places like Hartford, Conn. (down 79.7%) and Bridgeport, Conn. (down 77.6%).

Want to stay updated on the housing market? Follow me on Twitter at @NewsLambert.

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