The lack of housing availability in Greater Orlando is reaching critical levels, with the latest monthly data showing the biggest drop in inventory in nearly three years.

The number of homes on the market fell 10.9 percent last month compared with April of a year ago, the market's biggest inventory drop since May 2013, as the Orlando area stood alongside other hot parts of the country that are facing extreme shortages of housing.

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Austin, Texas, Raleigh, North Carolina, and Seattle are among regions where homes are hard to come by, snapped up quickly when they do become available and with their prices escalating.

All of the areas are victims of their own successes, having come out of the recession with aspirations to be among the best regions in the country, whether because of location, educational resources, clusters of cutting-edge businesses, or combinations of such. Growth efforts have drawn residents and more businesses until housing supply could not keep up with demand.

In the Orlando area, the median home price rose 10 percent last month. But sales, because of scarcity, rose just two percent, according to the Orlando Regional Realtor Association.

Comparatively, Austin's median home price increased 8.8 percent while sales increased 3.3 percent, according to the Austin Board of Realtors.

Similar scenarios are playing out in Seattle, Raleigh and other metro areas that are experiencing rapid growth, per data on realtor association websites for each region.

Right now, there is a 3.3-month supply of available housing in the Orlando area — which includes Orange, Seminole and part of Osceola counties — when six months is considered a balanced market between buyer demand and seller supply.

Orlando's $250K-and-less housing leads March sales, supply paper thin

March sales data show Orlando's so-called 'housing avaiability' crisis is actually very confined -- to the entry-level segment.

Demonstrating deep demand, of the homes put on the market in March, nearly half had a pending sales contract within 30 days of being listed.

The number is not as dramatic as what is going on in Seattle, where 80 percent of the homes coming on the market sell within 30 days, according to the Seattle King County Realtors Association.

Sellers are certainly in the driver's seat in Orlando, with April showing a 38 percent year-over-year jump in the number of houses that sold for more than their asking price, either because of bidding wars or a buyer coming in quickly and offering more to try and lock in the sale.

The current inventory of homes in the area -- 10,447 -- is the lowest since March 2014, which was 10,343.

The dearth of housing is a precipitous situation because population is the lifeblood of any community.

"This can become a constraint to growth," said Sean Snaith, director of the Institute for Economic Competitiveness at the University of Central Florida.

Possible outcomes include less commercial building, like retail, because population growth, while robust now, could slow because of the housing shortage.

There could be fewer commercial buildings built as businesses opt to stay put with their existing employee base instead of expanding, and other companies decline to move here because their skilled workforce has difficulties finding places to live.

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"At some point it will start catching up to population growth and job growth," Snaith said. "And affordability will become an increasing problem."

The solution is not an easy one. "Recovery can't happen overnight," Snaith said.

Indeed, it can take a couple of years for a residential development to be built. And while that type of construction is going on all over the area, it is not happening at a fast enough pace. Plus, some choice areas, like Orange and Seminole counties, are running out of very large tracts of land that could house big subdivisions.

The median price for all types of residences in the Orlando area in April was $191,900, up 9.66 percent from $175,000 the same period a year ago. Median home prices have now had year-over-year price increases for the last 57 months. Prices are 66 percent higher than they were in July 2011, at the depths of the recession.

As for local counties in April: sales in Orange were 0.92 percent less than a year ago, Seminole saw a 0.14 percent rise, Osceola had a 5.52 percent increase and Lake experienced a 6.16 percent drop.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at ktalley@growthspotter.com, via Twitter at @karentalley or (407) 420-5176. Follow GrowthSpotter on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

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