Reports released Wednesday painted a decidedly mixed picture of the housing market, where the power balance between buyers and sellers — who became accustomed to having the upper hand in recent years -- seems to be shifting a bit. In the Buckeye State, sales of new and previously owned homes were off last month by 1.3 percent from their November 2017 levels, the Ohio Association of Realtors said. Nationally, sales of previously owned homes were down 7 percent from a year before, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Both trade groups noted that sales did perk up from October to November, based on seasonally adjusted data.
Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the national Realtors, described home sales as "stabilizing." More listings are hitting the market, relieving some upward pressure on prices -- though mostly for higher-cost properties.
"Inventory is plentiful on the upper end, but a mismatch between supply and demand exists at affordable price points," Yun said in a news release, stressing the importance of building more affordable homes and suggesting that developers look at opportunity zones, geographic areas that offer tax advantages for investors under a new federal program, as potential locations for such projects.
In Ohio, where cities including Cleveland consistently rank among the nation's most affordable housing markets, the average sale price for a new or previously owned home was $178,882 in November, for a 2.1 percent annual gain. The national Realtors noted that Realtor.com, an affiliated real estate website, ranked Columbus among the country's hottest metro areas in November, based on the number of people looking at online real estate listings and how quickly properties were snapped up.
Nationally, the median -- or middle -- sale price for an existing home was $257,700 in November, up 4.2 percent from a year before. The national Realtors report median prices instead of averages and do not include newly built homes in their monthly reports.
The group's data show the most dramatic pullback in the western United States, where years of skyrocketing prices and limited affordability have left many people unable to buy a home. But there are signs of dampened enthusiasm here in Ohio, too, where the statewide Realtors group noted in a recent blog post that the share of real estate agents reporting an uptick in multiple offers recently fell for the first time in four years.
"Buyers no longer seem as automatically willing to pay the sticker price on a home, and the share of homes listed with at least one price cut is growing rapidly," Aaron Terrazas, senior economist for real estate data company Zillow, wrote in an emailed statement. "The most affordable markets continue to offer healthy gains, but in markets where price growth has long outpaced gains in income and where affordability is already stretched, buyers and sellers alike are both starting to adjust their expectations.
"There is no doubt that the housing market is moving toward a phase where there is more uncertainty for both buyers and sellers, and where above-market gains are no longer guaranteed," he added.
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