Home listings suddenly jump as sellers worry they may miss out on the red-hot housing market

Sharply higher mortgage rates have caused a sudden pullback in home sales, and now sellers are rushing to get in before the red-hot market cools off dramatically.

The supply of homes for sale jumped 9% last week compared with the same period a year ago, according to Realtor.com. That is the biggest annual gain the company has recorded since it began tracking the metric in 2017.

Real estate brokerage Redfin also reported that new listings rose nearly twice as fast in the four weeks ended May 15 as they did during the same period a year ago.

A For Sale sign is displayed in front of a house in Washington, DC.
A For Sale sign is displayed in front of a house in Washington, DC.
Stefani Reynolds | Afp | Getty Images

“Rising mortgage rates have caused the housing market to shift, and now home sellers are in a hurry to find a buyer before demand weakens further,” said Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather.

Sellers clearly see the market softening. Pending home sales, a measure of signed contracts on existing homes, dropped nearly 4% in April from March. They were down just over 9% from April 2021, according to the National Association of Realtors. This index measures signed contracts on existing homes, not closings, so it is perhaps the most timely indicator of how buyers are reacting to higher mortgage rates. It marks the sixth straight month of sales declines and the slowest pace in nearly a decade.

April sales of newly built homes, also measured by signed contracts, dropped a much wider-than-expected 16% compared with March, according to the U.S. Census.

Sales are slowing because mortgage rates have risen sharply since the start of the year, with the biggest gains in April and early May. The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage started the year close to 3% and is now well over 5%.

“We used to get 10 to 15 offers on most houses,” said Lindsay Katz, a real estate broker at Redfin in the Los Angeles area. “Now I’m seeing between two and six offers on a house, a good house.”

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