Realtor.com data suggests there will only be three listings per agent in 2024 and that sellers who want to close a deal in April are already looking for representation.
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Home sales are likely to pick up this year, but real estate agents should still expect to compete fiercely for listings, and spring sellers are looking for agents now.
That’s the urgent message Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale had Wednesday for brokers and agents attending Inman Connect New York. Hale and Lauren Bowen, a team leader at Florida-based brokerage Robert Slack, advised agents to start seeking out listings rather than waiting for clients to knock on their door.
Back in November, when Realtor.com published its 2024 housing market forecast, mortgage rates were still near their 2023 highs. That helps explain why the listing portal’s forecast — which predicted existing home for-sale inventories would drop by 14.7 percent this year — is looking a little stale.
The big drop in mortgage rates since then is likely to shake loose more inventory as would-be sellers no longer feel as constrained by the “lock-in effect” created by the low rate on their existing mortgage. In a forecast released last week, economists at Fannie Mae said they expect home sales to grow by 3.7 percent this year, to 4.96 million — close to 1 million more sales than Realtor.com predicted in November.
“Even if you were to completely disregard our forecast and look at some other forecasts that are more optimistic on inventory,  is still going to be a challenging year for listings,” Hale said.
While current inventory levels are down 36 percent from the pre-pandemic period, because “you’ve got a low base, it would take a 56 percent increase from where we are now” to get back to 2017-19 levels, Hale said. “It means you got to bring your A-game because it’s going to be a competitive market for listings in the year ahead.”
All in all, Realtor.com expects there will only be about three listings on the market this year for each agent, down from closer to four in 2019.
“Relative to that pre-pandemic, 2017-19 period, we’ve got one fewer listing per agent on the market,” Hale said. “That’s a big decline, and a big increase in the competitiveness around winning listings.”
Other Realtor.com research shows mid-April is the best time for sellers to close a deal, she said. Because there are a number of steps needed to prepare a home for sale and market it, sellers who want to close a deal in April are already looking for representation.
“Low listings are still going to keep a relatively competitive market even under the most optimistic projections for 2024, and spring sellers are looking for agents now,” Hale said.
Bowen, who in addition to leading a team of agents is chief operating officer at brokerage Robert Slack, advised agents to mine their buyer database for seller leads.
“People forget sometimes, because we’ve been buyer-focused for so many years, that those buyers eventually become sellers as well,” Bowen said. “At some point, you have accumulated a database that has hundreds, maybe thousands, maybe millions of buyers, and those buyers are going to become sellers, so don’t hesitate on that. While we know it’s gonna be harder to get these listings, use those relationships to your advantage.”
Bowen said Robert Slack has recently had success with Realtor.com’s Listing Toolkit, which is designed to help agents reach sellers and submit listing proposals.
“This one was different than the others we had used because we were able to send our proposals out to potential sellers ahead of time before ever walking through the door,” Bowen said. “So they were able to see what we brought to the table as a listing agent before we ever met them.”
Email Matt Carter