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The country is close to running out of houses

The 4,121-square-foot home at 1400 Autumn Creek Drive in Edmond is listed for $725,000 with Laurie Patterson, of Keller Williams Central Oklahoma. [PHOTO PROVIDED]
The 4,121-square-foot home at 1400 Autumn Creek Drive in Edmond is listed for $725,000 with Laurie Patterson, of Keller Williams Central Oklahoma. [PHOTO PROVIDED]

Imagine zero houses for sale.

You have to imagine it. The market will not allow the housing inventory to fall to zero. Before it got to that, even I'd bite on one of the unsolicited offers I keep getting for my own house — because the market would have pushed prices up enough to get me to sell.

Last year ended with the average sale price at $243,324, up 9% compared with December 2019, according to the Oklahoma City Metro Association of Realtors. The median price was $212,929, up 12.1% from the year before.

I'm not looking to sell. But I think it's more or less true: Everything has a price. Prices aren't up enough for any of y'all flippers-investors to get to me — or lots of other people.

The country is close to running out of houses, but it will only get so close. What keeps a one-month supply, which is all the Oklahoma City area has right now, from dwindling to zero supply is the market itself.

We're not alone in the house shortage. The national inventory was down to a 1.9-month supply at the end of 2020, according to the National Association of Realtors.

“Figuratively,” the country is running out of houses, Lawrence Yun, the Realtors' chief economist, said in a recent report from by Lew Sichelman. But "literally," Yun said, “there will always be a home for sale. ... “Some owners will always take the offer if the price is high enough.”

What'd I say? Call it cynicism or capitalism, but everything — OK, most things — are for sale if the price is right.

Sichelman had some inventory numbers for comparison:

Duchess and Putnam counties in New York had the largest supply of houses for sale at the end of the third quarter last year, at 6.6 months. The basically balanced market is an outlier.

Austin, Texas, had the tightest supply, at 0.7 month — that's just 21 days. As Sichelman observed, "Yikes!"

Austin's market is no outlier, Sichelman said, nor is Oklahoma City:

• The Northern Virginia Board of Realtors — Fairfax and Arlington counties, and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church — ended 2020 with a 0.88-month supply, down from 0.95 month at the end of 2019, and that's at an average price of $670,400 (nearly three times the average here).

San Diego: 0.9 month.

Tampa-St. Petersburg, Florida: 1.1 months.

Wichita, Kansas: 1.1 month.

Anaheim-Santa Ana, California: 1.2 months.

Demand has been crazy, driven by crazy-low mortgage interest rates. Many potential sellers have been reluctant to list their houses partly because of coronavirus concerns.

What about new houses?

Builders "can’t build them fast enough,” Robert Dietz, chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders, said in the report.

"In fact, new home sales are outpacing the start of construction by the widest margin ever," Sichelman wrote, quoting Dietz: “The gap is unprecedented. … There is no comparable period in the data going back to 1963.”

Locally, builders keep building — more last year than any year since 2013. They started 6,024 houses last year, an increase of 12.3% from 2019, according to Norman-based Dharma Inc.'s Builder Report. They are not expected to close the gap anytime soon.

Real Estate Editor Richard Mize edits The Oklahoman’s Real Estate section, and covers housing, construction, commercial real estate, and related topics for the newspaper and Contact him at Please support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a subscription at today.

Richard Mize

Real estate editor Richard Mize has edited The Oklahoman's weekly residential real estate section and covered housing, commercial real estate, construction, development, finance and related business since 1999. From 1989 to 1999, he worked... Read more ›