How Stuck Is Your Market? Two Key Metrics to Track

By Joanne Y Cleaver | Updated Aug 17, 2013 10:32 PM

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Sale Pending Sign


All real estate is local, but it’s national real estate statistics that dominate headlines. If you wish to identify emerging trends relevant to your market, ignore such perennially popular statistics as the number of houses selling. Instead, focus on two other key metrics:

Market inventory is the number of houses officially for sale, and how long it would take for them to sell them at the current pace. The lower the inventory the greater a seller’s advantage, as homebuyers are motivated by a scarcity of choice.

The traditional rule of thumb holds that a “balanced” market is one in which there are six months’ worth of homes. That explains why the real estate firmament shivered when announced in late March that the national supply of inventory had dipped to 4.7 months.

The other key metric is days on market—the median number of days that houses are officially for sale. The fewer number of days the faster-moving the market. When conditions are poor, the “days on market” (DOM) statistic stretches into months.

Related: 10 Simple Home Staging Tips Every Seller Should Know

Currently, the national DOM is 74, which is 24% lower than it was at this point in 2012, calculates Translation: Houses are selling faster.

That’s all well and good, but in this erratic market, bouncing Phoenix cancels out lagging Atlanta. The most relevant benchmarks are those put forward by your state or multiple listing service (MLS).

Typically owned by consortia of real estate brokerages, an MLS collects data from individual real estate brokers and creates regional databases of listings. Find your local MLS online, and once you’ve zeroed in on the source, set up a Google alert to have local data dropped into your email inbox.

For more on real estate, consider:

Suddenly, a Seller’s Market
Bob Vila Radio: Sale-Ready Homes
 5 Market Trends to Cash In On This Year