Some good news for anyone trying to sell their house: Homes are now being bought at the fastest pace in the past 30 years. According to the most recent annual report by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), homes now typically spend only about three weeks on the market before being sold, the shortest amount of time since 1987 when the association began publishing data on how long homes spend on the market. That number, which focused on about 8,000 homebuyers, marks a significant drop from about four weeks on the market in June 2016 and 11 weeks in 2012.
Here’s the thing: the short amount of time is good news for home sellers, but not so much for prospective home buyers. For-sale listings are currently in short supply, forcing anyone in the market to act quickly and competitively to purchase homes before others do. The NAR’s monthly report on existing home sales indicates that the number of available properties declined in September, so, while homes are in high demand, the U.S. housing market is currently seeing a supply shortage.
“The dreams of many aspiring first-time buyers were unfortunately dimmed over the past year by persistent inventory shortages, which undercut their ability to become homeowners,” the NAR’s chief economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement. “With the lower end of the market seeing the worst of the supply crunch, house hunters faced mounting odds in finding their first home.”
The numbers also aren’t great for first-time buyers, who decreased to 34 percent of all home buyers from last year’s 35 percent. Along with the current inventory shortage, prices keep climbing, making home buying particularly difficult for younger Americans who haven’t owned a house before. Record levels of student debt also haven’t helped, which increased to an average of $29,000 from $26,000 last year. Fifty-five percent of buyers said in a NAR survey that student debt delayed their home purchase, and a quarter said saving for a down payment was the most difficult part of buying a home.
While homes are selling very quickly, it’s not indicative of a stronger ability for Americans to buy them. Sellers may be offloading property quickly, but home ownership is now only more difficult.