Rick BissonAnyone working or connected to today’s real estate market is well aware of the current shortage of homes available for sale and the impact the shortage is having on the market. It’s been a topic of national discussion for several years. Within the past year the media has included the topic in their headlines on multiple occasions. Here in our Midcoast region, Cumberland County has been the poster child for the effects of a short supply of available homes.

In late July 2016, Maine had 14,475 homes available for sale. In late June 2017, there were 11,634 – down 19.6 percent. In Sagadahoc County, 290 homes were available for sale in late July 2016, and in late June 2017, 216 were available for sale – down 25.6 percent. In Lincoln County, 705 homes were available for sale in late July 2016, and in late June 2017, 511 were available for sale – down 27.5 percent. In Waldo County, 583 homes were available for sale in late July 2016, and in late June 2017, 441 were available for sale – down 24.4 percent. In Cumberland County, 1,773 homes were available for sale in late July 2016, and in late June 2017, 1,405 were available for sale – down 20.8 percent.

According to the National Association of Realtors, existing housing inventory has declined year-over-year each month for two straight years. However, according to NAR’s quarterly Housing Opportunities and Market Experience survey hope exists that the growing number of homeowners who think now is a good time to sell will eventually lead to more homes for sale. The optimism is fueled by 71 percent of homeowners in this quarter’s survey responding that now is a good time to sell – up from 69 percent over last quarter and considerably more than a year ago when the number was 61 percent.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says it’s apparent there’s a mismatch between homeowners’ confidence in selling and actually following through and listing their home for sale. “There are just not enough homeowners deciding to sell because they’re either content where they are, holding off until they build more equity, or hesitant seeing as it will be difficult to find an affordable home to buy,” he said. “As a result, inventory conditions have worsened and are restricting sales from breaking out while contributing to price appreciation that remains far above income growth.”

Yun added, “Perhaps this notable uptick in seller confidence will translate to more added inventory later this year. Low housing turnover is one of the roots of the ongoing supply and affordability problems plaguing many markets.”

In this quarter’s survey, respondents were also asked about the affordability of homes in their communities. Overall, only 42 percent of respondents believe homes in their area are affordable for almost all buyers. Additionally, 20 percent of respondents would consider moving to another more affordable community. The most likely to consider moving were the 27 percent who earn under $50,000 annually and the 29 percent who are age 34 and under.

“Areas with strong job markets but high home prices risk a migration of middle-class households to other parts of the country if rising housing costs in those areas are not contained through a significant ramp-up in new home construction,” said Yun.

Responses from the HOME survey provide added confirmation that there aren’t enough homeowners deciding to sell. They are holding off because they are content where they are, holding off until they build more equity, or hesitant seeing as it will be difficult to find an affordable home to buy.

If you, or someone you know, is contemplating selling a home, talk with your trusted Realtor. Now may be the best time to sell.

This column is produced by Rick Bisson and his family, who own Bisson Real Estate with Keller Williams Realty of Midcoast and Sugarloaf.