The usual spring thaw in the housing market appears to have come before winter even begins, according to the Zillow November Market Report. Home value growth is trending up in most large markets while inventory is trending down, suggesting a more competitive market is in the cards this winter

U.S. home values rose 1.2% from October and are now 19.3% higher than they were a year ago, a record high for any 12-month period this century, the company said. 

While monthly growth slowed nationally, it accelerated in 30 of the 50 largest metro areas. If this trend continues, Zillow says the market cooling over the past few months may be short-lived, and this could be an unseasonably warm winter housing market.

“Home buyers angling for a bargain this winter are finding the shelves nearly bare, as inventory has shrunk even faster than in a typical November,” says Zillow’s senior economist, Jeff Tucker. “Buyers will find some silver linings to this cloudy winter market, like fewer bidding wars and the typical home lingering longer on the market before the seller accepts an offer. But that’s small comfort to buyers after a year in which prices have risen by almost 20%.”

The inventory dip is especially noteworthy in the context of mortgage forbearance offerings, which have now expired for most borrowers who participated.

The end of mortgage forbearance had been expected by some market observers to trigger a wave of forced sales from homeowners unable to make payments once they came due again. Judging by results thus far, the company said, the program has achieved its goal of keeping people in their homes. 

Over the next 12 months, Zillow expects home values to rise 14.3%, which would be a significant slowdown from the current pace, but also would have been the highest annual growth in Zillow’s records before June. Existing home sales are expected to end 2021 at 6.13 million — 8.6% higher than 2020 — and rise to more than 6.5 million next year. 

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