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Real Estate

Americans are staying put in record numbers, worsening housing shortage

The population share of movers falls to a record low

Americans seem to be losing their wanderlust, according to migration data released by the Census on Wednesday.

The share of people who moved in the 12 months through March fell to the lowest level on record, adding to the woes of a housing market plagued by supply shortages.

Just 9.8% of the U.S. population moved during the year ended in March, the lowest level in Census records going back to 1947.

That’s half the 20% average seen from the end of World War II through 1970. It declined to 18% in the 1980s, 17% in the 1990s and 14% in the 2000s.

Some of the decline is caused by the greying of the U.S. population as the Baby Boomers move into retirement years, coupled with the popularity of “aging in place.” And, some is due to a shortage of homes to move into.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said despite historically low mortgage rates, U.S. home sales have not commensurately increased, in part due to a low level of new housing options.

The so-called “months supply” number that measures how long it would take to sell off the existing stock of homes fell to 3.9 in October, Yun said. Most economists consider a 6-month supply to be a balanced market.

“We must continue to beat the drum for more inventory,” Yun said. “Home prices are rising too rapidly because of the housing shortage, and this lack of inventory is preventing home sales growth potential.”

Redfin’s latest migration report indicates that in the third quarter of 2019 more Americans expressed interest in relocating to housing markets that offered them more affordable housing.

But as more homebuyers head to the relatively affordable market, it’s worsening the shortage homes for sale, said Daryl Fairweather, Redfin’s chief economist.

“In San Francisco, for example, inventory has been rising because there aren’t many San Franciscans who can afford the high prices,” Fairweather said. “San Franciscans are moving to Sacramento where homes are much more affordable, and that, combined with a lack of new listings, has caused inventory to decline in Sacramento.”

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