The New 'Shadow' Inventory: Listings on Hold

By Dave Fratello | March 26th, 2020

Whether you're actively in the market or not, you probably check in from time to time to see how many homes are for sale, and what they're like.

These days, using conventional consumer tools like MB Confidential, Zillow and so on, you're going to miss one-quarter of the inventory in Manhattan Beach.

That's because a sizable number of local home sellers have taken their homes out of the set of active listings, placing them instead in a status known as "hold."

Listings on "hold" don't display online and are not supposed to be shown to buyers. But they can be viewed by real estate brokers through their MLS systems.

Manhattan Beach seems to have an unusually large percentage of listed homes in "hold" status, at 25%.

That's 26 listings on hold, with 80 active. (We're considering "hold" listings part of the inventory, even though they are not active.)

We ran some quick comparisons, and MB really stands out.

With 25% of our inventory on hold, we're 9% above the county average, 8% above the share in the large Palos Verdes area, even 4% over Redondo Beach. (This map is a screen grab from our MLS mapping all homes in "hold" status around the South Bay.)

This is a lot of "shadow inventory."

Most of the homes have willing sellers. They're just feeling a little wiggly about keeping the property on the market and watching the DOM toll onward if buyers don't race to the front door.

Now, putting a listing on hold is a perfectly natural reaction to the uncertainty facing public health and the economy right now. Just this week, our regional MLS (CRMLS) decided to be more lenient with the "hold" status, changing some of the rules, including lifting a 30-day maximum for a listing to be on hold. (Properties still are not supposed to be shown.)

Some MLSes around the country have considered "pausing" the count of Days on Market so that listings can stay active and visible to potential buyers, without racking up extra DOM due to these unusual market conditions. CRMLS sensibly rejected that idea this week, reasoning that such a pause would render the DOM count unreliable for consumers and agents in the future. And if you pause now, when do you resume counting? The "hold" option is the safe harbor.

But to see homes in "hold" status, you do need your real estate broker to help.

In a comparable fashion, upcoming listings are being shared more and more among brokers, often with the caveat that sellers aren't sure when to bring the property to the MLS for full public marketing.

This means there is more of an active market for local homes that's off the radar of consumers, after years in which people have become accustomed to seeing everything on the market without need for a broker until later in the game.

What's that? You need a broker because you're interested in what's coming up, or what's on "hold?"

Email Dave a note. He and the Edge real estate team will be glad to help.

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Nerdy note: The term "shadow inventory" comes out of distressed markets. It generally means there would be more units offered for sale if market conditions were better. Some argue that prices are artificially sustained by a reduction in known inventory. In housing, this was last a common buzz word (phrase) in the post-crash market from 2009-2011 or so, when it was said that bank-owned properties were being held off the market until prices improved.

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