Julie Schmit, USA TODAY
More Americans say now is a good time to sell a home than at any time in the past three years, a rise in confidence that could lead to more sellers and, eventually, smaller home price gains.
In May, 40% of Americans said it was a good time to sell a home, up from 30% in April and 16% a year before, according to a survey from mortgage giant Fannie Mae.
The big jump from March was the largest in the survey's three-year history and was likely inspired by strong home price gains.
The jump may also foreshadow a lessening of the inventory crunch of homes for sale that's fueled rapid home price gains in many markets.
"Sentiment toward selling a home appears to be catching up with the strengthening housing market," says Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae.
U.S. home prices jumped 12.1% in April year-over-year, marking the 14th consecutive month of gains, market researcher CoreLogic says.
Tight inventories of homes for sale have been a big driver of those increases. Now, "higher prices are finally drawing people into the market," says Glenn Kelman, CEO of real estate brokerage Redfin.
Nationwide, the supply of homes for sale in April was up 4% from January, when adjusted for seasonal patterns, says Jed Kolko, chief economist for real estate website Trulia. "More inventory will mean price increases will slow," Kolko says.
Some markets have seen far sharper inventory jumps.
In Orange County, the active inventory this week is up 30% from mid-March, says Steven Thomas of Reports on Housing. "After bouncing across a bottom for a few months, the inventory has shifted directions and is moving up," he says.
The central California cities of Stockton and Sacramento, meanwhile, both posted more than a 75% jump in total listings in April from the prior month, according to Realtor.com, which tracks more than 140 markets nationwide. Nationally, inventory was up 4% in the same period, Realtor.com says.
Other markets seeing bigger jumps than 4% included Atlanta and Boston, up 9%, and Austin, up 7%.
With more homes for sale, "homes are starting to sit a little bit longer," says Joanie Cubias, of Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento.
Home prices there were up 22% in April year-over-year, CoreLogic says.
"Even two months ago, it was definitely a seller's market. Now, buyers can be a little more picky," unless they're shopping for the same lower-price homes favored by investors, Cubias says.
Not all hot markets are seeing an uptick in listings.
In the first week of June, fewer new listings hit the market in Phoenix than at any time in the previous 13 years, says Mike Orr, real estate expert at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.
One reason is that many Phoenix homeowners, while enjoying a 19% gain in home prices in the past year, are still underwater. That makes it hard to sell without having to come up with cash.
Nationwide, one in four homeowners with a mortgage owed more on their homes than the homes were worth in the first quarter, Zillow data shows. In Phoenix, that was almost 36% of homeowners with mortgages.