Why are home prices struggling to stabilize? The housing market still has far too much supply and not enough demand. With so many homes to choose from, the few buyers out there can negotiate to their advantage. Or as many put it: it's a buyer's market. And it's been that way since the housing bubble burst. To get an idea of the supply side of the equation, let's look at total unsold housing inventory.
To get the full picture, we should consider more than just the existing and new homes for sale -- we also need the "shadow" inventory. Those are homes where borrowers are seriously delinquent or facing foreclosure, but they aren't yet for sale. This latter data is provided by housing market analytics firm CoreLogic, which released its quarterly shadow inventory report (.pdf) on Tuesday. Existing home data is provided by the National Association of Realtors, while the Census Bureau tabulates the numbers for new homes.
Through July (where CoreLogic's data stops), the sum of these three types of inventory accounts for 5.4 million homes. You can see from the chart that inventory has actually been lower this year than it was throughout 2010. Last year it averaged 5.9 million. But it dipped to 5.3 million in January and hasn't made any downward progress since.