Orange County Housing Report: Opportunity Knocks NOW!

July 11, 2022

For homeowners looking to sell in 2022, the window of

opportunity is closing as the inventory climbs, demand falls,

and market times grow longer.

The longer homeowners wait, the harder it will be to sell

The Orange County housing market already cooled substantially, and it will only continue from here.

Every time the housing market transitions away from a Hot Seller’s Market, too many homeowners fall victim to waiting to sell. They do not understand the magnitude of the current market shift and how quickly the market has evolved so far in 2022, and where it is going from here. Many will be kicking themselves as they learn the hard way what it is like to sell in a much slower market during the second half of this year. It will be a case of “you snooze you lose,” as many sellers will have an extremely hard time finding success.

The best time of the year to sell a home is during the Spring Market, from mid-March to the end of May. That is when the most escrow activity takes place, demand peaks, and the inventory climbs. From their housing transitions to the Summer Market, the second-best time of the year to sell, from the end of May when the kids get out of school through mid-August when they all return to the classroom. With all the distractions of summer, from family vacations to hitting the beach, demand diminishes, and the inventory continues to climb.

People buy and sell houses year-round, but families prefer to look for a home and write offers to purchase during the spring. They can then open escrow and close at the very end of spring or during the summer months while the kids are on break. If they want to close prior to school starting next month, they need to enter escrow by the end of July or risk closing and moving after the kids have already started. This can be very disruptive, which is why there is a definitive seasonality to the housing market.

Just around the corner is the Autumn Market, from the end of August through Thanksgiving. That is when demand continues to fall and, typically, so does the inventory. Not this year. In a transitionary year due to higher rates, demand will drop while the inventory will consistently climb until peaking between October and Thanksgiving. The inventory normally peaks between July and August. With the inventory climbing and demand falling, the market will methodically slow for the remainder of the year. This can be seen by taking a closer look at how quickly the Expected Market Time (the amount of

time between hammering in the FOR-SALE sign and opening escrow) has evolved so far this year. In Orange County, it started the year at 25 days, an insanely Hot Seller’s Market when there was nothing on the market and truckloads of buyers were writing offers to purchase. Values were skyrocketing and homes were only lasting days before opening escrow. It hit a record low of 19 days at the start of March.

While homes were flying off the market at an unprecedented pace and buyers paid aggressively over the asking prices, mortgage rates rapidly climbed in the background. They were at 3.25% at the start of the year, grew to 4.25% in March when the Orange County market was at its hottest point, and continued to grow until it hit 6.28% in June after a hotter than expected read on inflation, the Consumer Price Index (CPI). It has receded to 5.77% today, according to Mortgage News Daily, still at heights last seen in 2008. The higher interest rate environment has taken an enormous bite out of home-affordability, which is why demand (a snapshot of new escrow activity over the prior month) is at its lowest level for this time of year since tracking began in 2004 and is down 61% compared to last year. As a result of diminished demand, the inventory has climbed from 1,100 home at the start of the year to 3,803 today, up 50% compared to last year. Keep in mind that the overall inventory is still down substantially compared to where it was prior to COVID. The 3-year average inventory from 2017 to 2019 was 6,708 homes, 76% higher than today’s level. Muted demand is currently matched with a muted supply.

This is what homeowners need to understand: the inventory will unrelentingly rise from now until it peaks during the Autumn Market, demand will methodically drop for the remainder of the year, and the market time will grow longer and longer. At today’s 67-day level, it is a Slight Seller’s Market (between 60 and 90 days) where sellers get to call more of the shots, but there are fewer multiple offers and home values are not appreciating as fast as they have been over the past couple of years. The market is no longer instant and properly pricing is absolutely crucial to find success.

The Expected Market Time will grow from 67-days to over 90-days within the next couple of months, and the Orange County housing market will transition to a Balanced Market (between 90 to 120 days), one that does not favor sellers or buyers and home values are no longer climbing. Depending upon where mortgage rates are during the autumn, housing could even reach a Slight Buyer’s Market (between 120 and 150 days), where buyers get to call the shots, yet home values are still not changing much. If a Slight Buyer’s Market persists with duration, for more than four months, prices could start to slowly decline. Any declines would be small as there is a real stickiness to home values due to the strength of the housing stock. There will be very little seller desperation.

The bottom line for homeowners thinking about selling: The longer they wait, the slower and more challenging the market will be. Right now, the market is still strong. Sellers will achieve success IF they price their homes according to their Fair Market Value. Opportunity is knocking.

Active Listings

The current active inventory continued to rocket higher.

The active listing inventory surged in the past couple of weeks, adding 312 homes, up 9%, and now sits at 3,803, its highest level since November 2020. With persistently higher rates, demand has significantly dropped to low levels last seen during the Great Recession, which has allowed the supply of homes to rapidly rise. The current level of available homes to purchase is still way down compared to where it was prior to COVID. Yet, as the year progresses, expect the inventory to relentlessly rise and make up the difference. Normal levels of homes available will be a welcome relief to the record low anemic inventory of the past couple of years.

Last year, the inventory was at 2,528, 34% lower, or 1,275 fewer.

The new trend that developed this year is a sharp decrease in the number of homes coming on the market. For the month of June, there were 3,443 new FOR-SALE signs in Orange County, 418 fewer than the 3-year average prior to COVID (2017 to 2019), 11% less. So far in 2022, there have been 3,632 missing signs, down 16%. These missing signs counter the potential rise in the inventory.

Demand

Demand plunged by 8% in the past couple of weeks.

Demand, a snapshot of the number of new escrows over the prior month, plunged from 1,861 to 1,710 in the past couple of weeks, down 8%, and its lowest level since May 2020 during the lockdowns of the pandemic. It is at its lowest level for July since tracking began in 2004. The large drops in demand should subside now that the market has digested June’s spike in rates. Expect demand to continue to slowly drop through the Summer and Autumn Markets. Chart, line chart

Description automatically generatedLast year, demand was at 2,761, 61% more than today, or an extra 1,051. The 3-year average prior to COVID (2017 to 2019) was at 2,582 pending sales, 51% more than today, or an extra 872

With the supply surging higher and demand plunging, the Expected Market Time (the number of days to sell all Orange County listings at the current buying pace) increased from 56 to 67 days in the past couple of weeks, its highest level since May 2020. At 67 days, it is a SlightSeller’s Market (less than 60 days) where sellers get to call most of the shots, there are fewer multiple offers and home values are not appreciating as fast as they have been over the past couple of years. The market is no longer instant and properly pricing is crucial to find success.  Last year the Expected Market Time was at 27 days, substantially faster than today. The 3-year average prior to COVID was at 78 days, also a Slight Seller’s Market.

Luxury End

The luxury housing market in Orange County is downshifting rapidly.

In the past couple of weeks, the luxury inventory of homes priced above $2 million increased from 776 to 823 homes, up 6%, or an additional 47 homes, its highest level since December of 2020. Luxury demand decreased by 15 pending sales, down 7%, and now sits at 196, its lowest level since January. With the supply rising and demand falling, the overall Expected Market Time for luxury homes priced above $2 million increased from 110 to 126 days, still excellent for luxury, but rapidly slowing and its highest level since January 2021. It was at 45 days in February, an insanely HOT Seller’s Market. The volatility of Wall Street has significantly impacted the luxury housing market.

Year over year, luxury demand is down by 34 pending sales or 15%, and the active luxury listing inventory is up by 200 homes or 32%. The Expected Market Time last year was at 81 days, considerably stronger than today. For homes priced between $2 million and $4 million, the Expected Market Time in the past two weeks increased from 88 to 98 days. For homes priced between $4 million and $8 million, the Expected Market Time increased from 143 to 159 days. For homes priced above $8 million, the Expected Market Time increased from 353 to 625 days. At 625 days, a seller would be looking at placing their home into escrow around March 2024.

Orange County Housing Summary

  • The active listing inventory continued to surge higher adding 312 homes in the past couple of weeks, up 9%, and now totals 3,803 homes, its highest level since November 2020. In June, there were 11% fewer homes that came on the market compared to the 3-year average prior to COVID (2017 to 2019), 418 fewer. Last year, there were 2,528 homes on the market, 1,275 fewer homes, or 34% less. The 3-year average prior to COVID (2017 to 2019) was 6,708, or 76% more.
  • Demand, the number of pending sales over the prior month, decreased by 151 pending sales in the past two weeks, down 8%, and now totals 1,710, its lowest level at this time of year since tracking began in 2004. Last year, there were 2,761 pending sales, 61% more than today. The 3-year average prior to COVID (2017 to 2019) was 2,582, or 51% more.
  • With supply soaring higher and demand falling, the Expected Market Time, the number of days to sell all Orange County listings at the current buying pace, surged from 56 to 67 days in the past couple of weeks, a Slight Seller’s Market (between 60 and 90 days). Housing is rapidly cooling, and the market time is at its highest level since May of 2020. It was at 27 days last year, much stronger than today. 
  • For homes priced below $750,000, the market is a Hot Seller’s Market (less than 60 days) with an Expected Market Time of 41 days. This range represents 18% of the active inventory and 29% of demand.
  • For homes priced between $750,000 and $1 million, the Expected Market Time is 60 days, a Slight Seller’s Market. This range represents 24% of the active inventory and 27% of demand.
  • For homes priced between $1 million to $1.25 million, the Expected Market Time is 71 days, a Slight Seller’s Market. This range represents 13% of the active inventory and 12% of demand.
  • For homes priced between $1.25 million to $1.5 million, the Expected Market Time is 68 days, a Slight Seller’s Market. This range represents 12% of the active inventory and 11% of demand.
  • For homes priced between $1.5 million to $2 million, the Expected Market Time is 87 days, a Slight Seller’s Market (between 60 and 90 days). This range represents 12% of the active inventory and 9% of demand.
  • For homes priced between $2 million and $4 million, the Expected Market Time in the past two weeks increased from 88 to 98 days. For homes priced between $4 million and $8 million, the Expected Market Time increased from 143 to 159 days. For homes priced above $8 million, the Expected Market Time increased from 353 to 625 days.
  • The luxury end, all homes above $2 million, accounts for 21% of the inventory and 11.5% of demand.
  • Distressed homes, both short sales and foreclosures combined, made up only 0.2% of all listings and 0.1% of demand. There are only 5 foreclosures and 1 short sale available to purchase today in all of Orange County, 6 total distressed home on the active market, up 1 from two weeks ago. Last year there were 7 total distressed homes on the market, similar to today.
  • There were 2,362 closed residential resales in June, 33% less than June 2021’s 3,545 closed sales. June marked a 6% decrease compared to May 2022. The sales to list price ratio was 101.5% for all of Orange County. Foreclosures accounted for 0.1% of all closed sales, and there were no closed short sales. That means that 99.9% of all sales were good ol’ fashioned sellers with equity.

Have a great week.

Sincerely,
Steven Thomas
Quantitative Economics and Decision Sciences

Copyright 2022- Steven Thomas, Reports On Housing – All Rights Reserved.   This report may not be reproduced in whole or part without express written permission by author.

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