'Shadow inventory' concerns re-emerge

Pent-up sellers, distressed properties worry some analysts

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One of the biggest unknowns in the housing industry is "shadow inventory." That term describes the number of homes that would be on the market if certain conditions were in place.

For example, many people would be more than willing to list their home for sale now if there were not so many other homes already competing for buyers in their neighborhood. And, given the basic law of supply and demand, more supply typically means lower prices.

Ted Jones, chief economist for Stewart Title, said he is concerned that a large number of "pent-up sellers" will enter the market once sales activity improves.