The halfway point of the year is a good time to see where we are this year compared to last year. Before we look at this year compared to last I think it is important to remember how strong last year was. Both unit sales and dollar volume increased over 21% last year. This was by far the biggest year over year increase we have ever had. It is not surprising that our results this year have been much more mundane. Unit sales this year have declined by 6.3% while average prices have increased just over 2%.
While I would never say I’m happy with a reduction in sales, the truth is I’m not really that disappointed. Increases like we saw in 2013 are clearly unsustainable. A moderate decline in unit sales this year demonstrates that the market has fully recovered from the housing recession. I believe that by the end of this year we will be closer to 2013 levels than we are now. There are two specific reasons I feel this way. One is that the last two months of 2013 were very weak compared to the first ten months. The second is that the first two months of 2014 were significantly slower than the March through June period.
The two biggest factors affecting the housing market going forward are job growth and inventory levels. Job growth has clearly been sluggish for the past few years but has begun to show some improvement in recent months. Inventory levels are still significantly below historical levels. The best way to increase inventory is to build more new homes. I do believe that construction levels will continue to increase but not as fast as fast as the market demands.
Over the second half of the year I do not expect to see the dramatic monthly swings we saw earlier this year. I expect inventory levels to remain a challenge and I believe that if job growth improves, so will real estate sales.