The Great Real Estate Slowdown: 10 Markets Where Homes Linger the Longest—and Buyers Gain an Edge
The Great Real Estate Slowdown: 10 Markets Where Homes Linger the Longest—and Buyers Gain an Edge
In the fraught, pressure-packed, scarily unpredictable summer 2022 housing market, home sellers and buyers are compulsively tracking key real estate metrics like baseball obsessives tracking box scores—only with way more on the line than the galling perfection of the New York Yankees. Everyone is desperate to get a grip on where things are going in U.S. real estate. Are prices continuing to rise? Is inventory going to keep falling? And where on Earth are mortgage rates going to top out?
But one stat seems to sum up the current market, with all of its twists and turns, better than any other: How long is it taking for homes to sell? And in another sign of a cooldown in the housing market, U.S. homes are remaining on the market just a little longer.
While still a blistering pace, it represents a relief from the turbocharged frenzy we saw late last year and earlier this year. At the beginning of 2022, the median number of days on the market was just 21—10 days faster than it is now.
“The big trend that we’ve seen just about nationwide is that homes are not sitting for very long anywhere,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com. “We have relatively few homes on the market for sale, and up until recently, buyer demand has been really intense. But there have been some signs that demand is cooling.”
Why demand is truly cooling
Hale says data shows more sellers are popping up in a number of markets nationwide. She believes some of those folks held off on putting their homes on the market in 2021 because of continued uncertainty with the COVID-19 pandemic.
It might seem like a story from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. But dial the calendar back 12 months, and vaccines were just ramping up with the masses getting their first jabs last spring. Questions about the effectiveness of the vaccines lingered and it was still unclear if (and when) most of the country would be ready to open back up.
This spring, we’re now headed back to what looks like equilibrium.
“This is the first relatively normal year since the start of the pandemic. I think a lot of people were afraid they were going to miss the heart of the selling season last year and just decided to postpone their home sales,” says Hale. “They weren’t quite ready to make moves last year—and they definitely are now.”
In another hopeful sign for buyers, Hale cited data that shows the number of home sellers has increased year over year for 10 out of the past 11 weeks. More folks putting their places up for sale means more options for buyers who were weary of tiresome bidding wars.
Days on the market are starting to climb
A national median of 31 days on the market doesn’t provide buyers with a ton of breathing room. But as Hale explains, it’s a marked difference from that head-spinning 21-day median seen earlier this year. She expects the pace to slacken even more with interest rates rising.
“In the most recent week, homes sold just four days faster than they did last year,” Hale says. “They’re still selling faster than a year ago, but that gap is shrinking, and eventually I expect to see homes sell a bit slower than last year.”
More days on the market can mean buyers have more time to decide if a house is right for them and get the financing together. Buyers might not feel pressured to make a purchase they might regret down the line. Bidding wars will be less frequent and less frantic.
Be wary of using the number of days on the market to predict the future, Hale cautions.
“Days on market is a bit more of a lagging indicator than a leading indicator, so it’s not generally the first metric to change, but it is one that signals market balance.”
So where are homes still moving fast—and where are they sticking around longer?
With that caveat in mind, we took a look at the 10 markets where homes are selling the quickest and the 10 where they’re lagging a bit behind the national median.
To create our list, the data team at Realtor.com scoped out the median days on the market in May for the nation’s 250 largest metropolitan areas. To ensure geographic diversity, we limited the data to one metro area per state. Metros include the main city and surrounding towns, suburbs, and smaller urban areas.
Cities don’t tend to stay on these lists for long.
“When a housing market has homes selling extraordinarily quickly, market forces tend to bring it back into balance, either through more supply from existing-home owners selling or builders building, or through reduced demand, homeowners shifting to other, less competitive markets,” Hale explains.
That said, we did spot a couple of holdovers from last year’s look at the fastest and slowest markets, including the city that holds the crown for the fewest median days on the market. What’s in the water in New Hampshire, anyway?
Median list price in May 2022: $444,900
Days on the market: 8.5
The market where homes turned over the quickest is a historic city about 50 miles from Boston. A lack of housing starts might be a key component of Manchester’s rapidly moving market.
“There aren’t a lot of new-construction houses here in Manchester. We’re part of the original 13 Colonies, so a lot of our housing is dated prior to the industrial era, 1800s to 1940s,” says Suzanne Damon of the Damon Home Team at Re/Max Insight in Manchester.
“Demographic-wise, we have a large portion of millennials in our population, but we do tend to attract the baby boomers because there’s no state income tax,” she says.
Recently, Damon says she has started to see a shift.
“Interest rates started to rise in April, and that’s when we started to see a change in our market,” she says. “Last year, my offer count per listing was 12 offers versus today, it’s five and a half.”
That means the buyer—especially a first-time buyer—with a traditional mortgage or a government-backed loan like FHA, USDA, or VA, now has a fighting chance in what had been a cash-heavy market.
“Last year, 33% of my properties sold were cash. I see this [current market] as being very opportunistic for buyers who don’t have a lot of cash to come to the table,” Damon says. “These buyers who haven’t been able to buy, with a little bit of a cooldown in the market, they’re going to be able to come to the table, and we’ve seen that in the last three weeks.”
2. Raleigh, NC
Median list price: $493,558
Days on the market: 9
Not too far behind was Raleigh, with a median of nine days on the market.
Raleigh is a key part of the Research Triangle area along with the cities of Durham and Chapel Hill. Three major research universities in the area mean it’s a hub for employers on the lookout for well-educated workers.
Low inventory has been an issue in the market, says Matt Fowler, executive director of Triangle MLS. He says more area houses sold in 2021 than in any year before—and that pace has kept up this year so far.
“Think of it as a retail store. It’s not like there’s not stuff on the shelves. The shelves are full, and they’re turning so fast that it’s hard to keep them stocked,” he explains. “So there’s less inventory visible, but you can [still] find and buy a house.”
Prior to the pandemic in June 2019, the Raleigh area had 10.8 months of housing inventory to work through. Fowler says the number now sits at 3.3 months.
In an interesting twist, Fowler adds that homes priced at $250,000 or lower are staying on the market a bit longer than homes priced above $470,000. Buyers from out of state want the nicer homes and are ready to pony up the dollars it takes to win a bidding war.
“There are very publicized employment relocations that have occurred,” he says, adding that tech companies such as Apple, Google, and Meta are bringing new workers to the Triangle, with many having salaries in the $200,000 range.
Median list price: $224,950
Days on the market: 10 (Tie)
Tied for third at a quick 10 days on the market is this intriguing upstate New York market where buyers still must act fast. Local agents say there’s a continued shortage of homes up for sale, with one local agent reporting there are “10% as many homes as there were available in 2015” in the metro area.
The city consistently ranks high for livability and gets a ton of lake-effect snow every winter thanks to its proximity to Lake Ontario. The median list price remains friendly, which means buyers continue to make their way to this town on the rebound.
4. Denver, CO
Median list price: $695,000
Days on the market: 10 (tie)
Also at a rapid 10 median days on the market is the Mile High City. While inventory turned over rapidly in May, red flags in the area are already apparent.
Median list price: $439,250
Days on the market: 11
With a median price that’s just a hair above the national median, buyers continue to flock to this town near the Canadian border. The hurdle is the same as we have seen in Manchester, NH: There just aren’t enough homes on the market right now. When a desirable home pops up, it flies off the market in a hurry.
Got it? OK, now let’s take a look at the places where home sales are slowing down to a (slightly) more manageable pace.
1. Houma, LA
Median list price: $284,500
Days on the market: 58.5
Houma tops the list for the slowest market. Even so, the number is down significantly from the median 79 days on the market in April of last year. Local agents have seen the sign of market strengthening.
“Right now anything from $130,000 to $140,000 to the $200,000 range priced right and is a nice house, those things are like war. You’re going to expect a multiple-offer situation on that,” explains Lisa Thibodaux with Latter & Blum Canal & Main Realty in Thibodaux, LA, which is next to Houma.
Many of those lower-priced residences are being bought for students attending nearby Nicholls State University.
“We have a lot of families looking for housing for students versus them renting. With the high price of rent, they’ll purchase a little house no higher than $200,000 for their kids to come to school,” she says. “Then they turn it around and put it back on the market. I’ve done many of those where, after the child is out of school, they give it back to me to put on the market.”
Thibodaux says both the pandemic and Mother Nature have contributed to the out-of-whack market around Houma.
Hurricane Ida hit the area with 150 mph winds in August 2021, damaging or destroying many homes. Many of those homes were in a flood zone and cannot be easily rebuilt or insured.
Owners “are definitely trying to get out of the flood zone right now,” she says.
2. Utica, NY
Median list price: $182,400
Days on the market: 55
This spring, homes in Utica were selling at close to the asking price. Seller supply was almost even with buyer demand, which means buyers have a bit more leeway in this upstate burg.
Foreign refugees have flocked to the unlikely locale of Utica with the help of The Center, an organization that helps people resettle from countries around the world. A recent New York Times article looked at how those refugees were helping to transform this “dying Rust Belt town.”
Median list price: $319,900
Days on the market: 51.5
Need time to pick the home of your dreams? Head to this college town where the pace is more leisurely. Homes in the land of the Iowa Hawkeyes average nearly two months on the market. Still a friendly market in terms of both price and availability, demand and supply are fairly evenly matched.
Right now, there are nearly 500 homes on the market in the town—and over 300 of those are priced below $400,000.
Median list price: $151,200
Days on the market: 50
In this capital city, it’s still possible to score a home with a five-digit price tag. The median sale price in Charleston was $94,000 in April 2022. It’s no wonder West Virginia recently topped our list of the most affordable states for homebuyers.
The state’s most populous town sits right along the Kanawha River and has over 400 homes for sale. Just over 150 of those homes have an asking price below $100,000.
Median list price: $499,900
Days on the market: 49.5
In 2021, we named it the best college town for families to buy a home. Salisbury University is the city and has a 200-acre campus and more than 8,000 students.
With nearly 500 homes currently on the market and no homes priced over a million bucks, buyers have plenty of places to choose from—and plenty of time to make a decision.
To put it simply, a seller’s market happens when there are more homebuyers than sellers. Based on the basic law of supply and demand, this means that sellers have the upper hand and can sell their homes quicker, at higher prices, with little pushback from buyers.
There are many conditions that have upheld the current seller’s market, which was gaining momentum even before the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it into overdrive.
“Even though the number of homes being built has been growing over the past 10 years, it hasn’t kept pace with population growth,” says Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at RealtyTrac.
And the pandemic didn’t help, bringing in a wave of new buyers in the early days snapping up available inventory, and later supply chain issues and labor shortages made it even more difficult for builders to meet the demand for new homes. As a result, home sellers have seen unprecedented benefits and profits—they have been the group in the driver’s seat.
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Buyers are now dropping out of the market like woozy midsummer flies due to record-high and still-rising home prices coupled with higher mortgage rates pummeling their inflation-battered budgets. Fears of another recession, stock market drops, and a growing sense of ennui over the state of the world are also sidelining buyers.
Sellers who watched as their neighbors’ homes—ones with kitchens and bathrooms that hadn’t been updated in decades—sold for record prices to all-cash buyers within days in the spring have been dumbfounded by the abrupt shift in the market. While some sellers across the nation are continuing to receive lucrative offers, others have been lucky to get an offer at or below their list price. That’s led those not quite so fortunate to slash their asking prices in hopes of attracting buyers.