Buyers are navigating a stable housing market and making well-informed offers while sellers are leaning into a low-inventory environment, according to new data and agents who spoke to Inman.

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Like Staten Island Chuck, the groundhog who earlier this month predicted an early spring after failing to see his shadow, real estate agents nationwide are seeing indications that the homebuying season is off to an early start.

U.S. home sales are inching up and price cuts are dwindling as buyers get an early jump on the busiest — and, apparently, most competitive — season of the year , according to data from Zillow and agents who spoke to Inman.

“Our market is doing extremely well,” Jeffrey Decatur, an agent with RE/MAX Capital in Albany, New York, told Inman, adding that a home he listed on Monday has since been toured, in-person, by more than 40 prospective buyers. “What I’ve been telling my clients is that real estate is super hyper-local. It could be good on one block and not good on another block.”

Newly pending listings in January fell 20 percent from levels a year earlier, and remained at roughly the same level as in January 2020, according to data issued by Zillow. That’s compared to November, when mortgage rates hit a peak and newly pending listings were down 38 percent year over year.

Home values slipped just 0.1 percent from December to January of 2023, reaching a typical value of $329,542, 6.2 percent higher than the levels seen in January 2022.

Some buyers are taking advantage of the less frenzied market to make a well-informed offer, while sellers are able to take advantage of low inventory environment, according to the report.

“Now as a buyer, you can slow down, have your inspection and make a strong, well-informed offer,” Ryan Platzke, a Realtor at Helgeson/Platzke Real Estate Group in Minneapolis, said in a statement.

“And as a seller you are still in a very good position,” Platzke added. “You won’t see the 10 offers all cash, non-contingent, etc. But you will see one, maybe three offers, usually that first or second weekend, where you’ll be able to select which one to go forward with and comfortably make a decision.”

While homebuyers are slowly returning to the market, sellers have been more reluctant to get off the bench. A paltry 230,000 new listings came online in January, according to Zillow, the lowest number since the search portal giant began tracking the metric in 2018, and 30 percent below a 2018–2021 average of about 330,000, data shows.

Mortgage rates hikes throughout 2022 put pressure on sellers to avoid listing their homes unless transacting was unavoidable.

“People are finally starting to embrace that we are maybe in some recessionary times and are tightening up their spending habits a little bit,” Nick Painz, an agent for RE/MAX Alliance in the Denver area, told Inman. “The only people that are moving are people that have to move: Job creation, marriage, divorce, death.”

Painz said he expects a competitive spring buying season with mortgage rates now hovering around 6 percent and inventory expected to stay low.

“The same people that saw that they missed their opportunity at 3 and 4 percent the prior spring, they saw the rates pull back and went ‘we’re not going to miss it this time,'” he said. “It’s going to be an interesting spring market.”

Email Ben Verde

RE/MAX | Zillow
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