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Home Buyers May Find More Opportunities With New Homes This Spring, According to First American Potential Home Sales Model

—When existing homes for sale are nearly non-existent, a new home at the right price may be an attractive option, says Chief Economist Mark Fleming

First American Financial Corporation (NYSE: FAF), a premier provider of title, settlement and risk solutions for real estate transactions and the leader in the digital transformation of its industry, today released First American’s proprietary Potential Home Sales Model for the month of February 2023. The Potential Home Sales Model measures what the healthy market level of home sales should be based on economic, demographic, and housing market fundamentals.

February 2023 Potential Home Sales

  • Potential existing-home sales increased to a 5.47 million seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR), a 2.6 percent month-over-month increase.
  • This represents a 56.7 percent increase from the market potential low point reached in February 1993.
  • The market potential for existing-home sales decreased 11.4 percent compared with a year ago, a loss of 702,000 (SAAR) sales.
  • Currently, potential existing-home sales is 1,325,700 (SAAR), or 19.5 percent below the pre-recession peak of market potential, which occurred in April 2006.

Chief Economist Analysis: You Can’t Buy What’s Not for Sale

“The spring season is typically the busiest time of the year for the housing market. According to data from First America Data & Analytics, historically approximately 36 percent of existing-home sales for the year occur from March through June. The housing market’s seasonal pattern is driven by factors such as weather, holidays and the traditional school year schedule, all of which make spring and summer a more optimal time for moving for many potential home buyers,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist at First American. “Yet, there are early signs that the spring home-buying season is off to a slow start. Comparing average mortgage applications in February of this year to February 2019 – the last ‘normal’ year before the pandemic hit – reveals that purchase applications are down more than 30 percent.

“Whether the housing market remains frozen or begins to thaw during the crucial spring months is a function of many factors, ranging from mortgage rates to inventory,” said Fleming. “Our Potential Home Sales Model, which measures what we believe a healthy market for home sales should be based on the economic, demographic and housing market environments, has now increased for four consecutive months alongside generally lower mortgage rates, providing some optimism. However, even if mortgage rates stabilize and demand drifts higher, you can’t buy what’s not for sale.

“The average 30-year, fixed mortgage rate has declined for four consecutive months since the peak in October 2022. The decline in mortgage rates has increased house-buying power, thus providing an affordability boost for potential first-time buyers and encouraging some who previously felt ‘rate locked-in’ to re-enter the market,” said Fleming. “Yet, those who are jumping back into the market are finding that there are very few existing homes available for sale. However, there is an alternative to purchasing an existing home – buying a new home.”

Homebuilders are More Motivated to Sell than Homeowners

“New home inventory as a share of total home inventory has increased rapidly since 2020, because homebuilders have built more homes and the supply of existing homes for sale has contracted. From 2000 until the pandemic, new homes on average made up about 11 percent of total inventory,” said Fleming. “In the January 2023 report, that share of new homes reached 27 percent. The reason why inventory is higher for new homes versus existing homes comes down to the seller. In an existing-home transaction, the seller is the homeowner, whereas in a new-home transaction, it’s a builder.

“When mortgage rates spike, as they have done over the last year, homeowners can choose to stay put for a while, especially when they are sitting on a cheap mortgage and are reluctant to drop the sale price of their existing home to attract potential buyers in a higher rate environment. On the other hand, builders are incentivized to move inventory as quickly as possible and therefore can be more flexible in a higher rate environment,” said Fleming. “For instance, builders can more easily offer incentives to bolster sales (such as rate buydowns, paying points and offering price reductions), or upgrades on appliances and other quality features. This essentially allows the buyer to get more home for the same amount of money.

“It is important to note that, while new home inventory has increased, only 15.5 percent of the total new home inventory as of the latest January report are completed and ready to occupy, down from more than 20 percent pre-pandemic,” said Fleming. “Nevertheless, when existing homes for sale are nearly non-existent, a new home at the right price may be an attractive option.”

Next Release

The next Potential Home Sales Model will be released on April 19, 2023 with March 2023 data.

About the Potential Home Sales Model

Potential home sales measures existing-homes sales, which include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops on a seasonally adjusted annualized rate based on the historical relationship between existing-home sales and U.S. population demographic data, homeowner tenure, house-buying power in the U.S. economy, price trends in the U.S. housing market, and conditions in the financial market. When the actual level of existing-home sales are significantly above potential home sales, the pace of turnover is not supported by market fundamentals and there is an increased likelihood of a market correction. Conversely, seasonally adjusted, annualized rates of actual existing-home sales below the level of potential existing-home sales indicate market turnover is underperforming the rate fundamentally supported by the current conditions. Actual seasonally adjusted annualized existing-home sales may exceed or fall short of the potential rate of sales for a variety of reasons, including non-traditional market conditions, policy constraints and market participant behavior. Recent potential home sale estimates are subject to revision to reflect the most up-to-date information available on the economy, housing market and financial conditions. The Potential Home Sales model is published prior to the National Association of Realtors’ Existing-Home Sales report each month.


Opinions, estimates, forecasts and other views contained in this page are those of First American’s Chief Economist, do not necessarily represent the views of First American or its management, should not be construed as indicating First American’s business prospects or expected results, and are subject to change without notice. Although the First American Economics team attempts to provide reliable, useful information, it does not guarantee that the information is accurate, current or suitable for any particular purpose. © 2023 by First American. Information from this page may be used with proper attribution.

About First American

First American Financial Corporation (NYSE: FAF) is a premier provider of title, settlement and risk solutions for real estate transactions. With its combination of financial strength and stability built over more than 130 years, innovative proprietary technologies, and unmatched data assets, the company is leading the digital transformation of its industry. First American also provides data products to the title industry and other third parties; valuation products and services; mortgage subservicing; home warranty products; banking, trust and wealth management services; and other related products and services. With total revenue of $7.6 billion in 2022, the company offers its products and services directly and through its agents throughout the United States and abroad. In 2022, First American was named one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For by Great Place to Work® and Fortune Magazine for the seventh consecutive year. More information about the company can be found at


Media Contact:

Marcus Ginnaty

Corporate Communications

First American Financial Corporation

(714) 250-3298

Investor Contact:

Craig Barberio

Investor Relations

First American Financial Corporation

(714) 250-5214

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