3.8M Homes Are Missing From the Housing Market

January 22, 2020

There are not enough homes for the population, a new report from realtor.com® warns. The shortage lands at 3.8 million homes nationwide. And the impact could be widespread: Competition among buyers could grow steeper, causing home prices to move higher.

Will the new-home market be able to catch up to demand? “Home builders have a mountain of opportunity, but a big hill to climb,” says Javier Vivas, director of economic research at realtor.com®. “The current inventory crisis and need for 3.8 million new homes means a nearly insatiable appetite from potential buyers, especially in the lower end of the market.”

Between 2012 and 2019, about 5.9 million single-family homes were built. However, during that time, about 9.8 million new households were formed.

Home builders, faced with labor and lot shortages and escalating prices, have started to ramp up their lean inventories over the past year. But levels still remain well below two-decade average lows. Realtor.com® researchers estimate that even with an above-average pace of construction, it would still take builders four to five years to return to equilibrium.

The missing inventory has been most acute in the entry-level and mid-range markets.

"Large populations of renters and well-qualified potential buyers with strong incomes are waiting in the wings,” Vivas says. “Assuming the economy avoids a full-on recession and rates remain low, the window for builders remains wide open. If builders can deliver homes at adequate price points, absorption will continue to strengthen through the first half of the decade.”