What is an Absorption Rate?

The Absorption Rate measures the relationship between a real estate market’s supply and demand.  The total number of available homes (inventory = listings and pending sales) is divided by the total number of homes sold in the previous month.   The resulting number represents the number of months it would take, at that same pace, to sell the entire inventory of homes.  It this does not take into count the number of houses which will eventually come on the market in addition to those already for sale.

Knowing your area’s Absorption Rate (AR), can help you track trends.  Understanding your market and where it is headed is very important for both sellers and buyers.  It allows buyers and sellers to understand better why some homes may sell faster than other and to develop effective pricing strategies.

Calculating an AR is not difficult but you will need access to the following information:

  • How many listings are currently on the market in a given area? Be sure to include both active and pending homes.
  • How many homes sold last month?

Once you have those numbers, you will need to:

  • Add the number of Active/Pending Listings together
  • Multiply the number of homes Sold Last Month by 12.  Then, divide that number by 52 for the weekly number of homes sold.
  • Then, divide the number of Active by the number of sold per week
  • This will give you the weekly AR.  For a monthly AR simply divide the weekly AR by 4.

Here’s an example for Montgomery County.  In November 2011 there were 554 settled sales.  Currently, there are 4,481 active listings and 230 pending sales.

Listings + Pendings = Actives

4481 + 230 = 4711

Homes Sold  X 12 = Annualized Sales

554 X 12 = 6,648/52 = 127.85 Week

4711 / 127.85 = 36.84 Weeks

36.84 Weeks / 4 Weeks per month = 9.21 months of inventory

The result is an Absorption Rate of 9.21 Months.  What this really means is that it will take 9.21 months for the market, at the current rate, to absorb the current inventory of homes.  This assumes that no new homes will be added to the existing inventory.

One good thing about absorption rates is that they can be tailored to specific neighborhoods and price ranges. So how can an absorption rate study assist buyers and sellers?

Narrowing an absorption rate study to a certain type of home, in a specific neighborhood, at a particular price point, enables a buyer or seller to first determine the nature of their local market (is it a buyer or sellers market) and then establish a listing or offer price, accordingly.

For instance, in Lower Merion, the overall AR for the township is 8 months.  However, if we take a look at the luxury market within Lower Merion (homes over $2MM) we see a very different picture begins to appear.  The luxury market currently has a 44 month inventory.  Meaning if you have a luxury home in Lower Merion, it could take over 3.6 years for you to sell it.  This could be a problem for someone who needs to sell quickly.  In this case, having the AR could prompt the seller to rethink their asking price.

Once we know the AR, we can determine what kind of market we are in.  That information can then be used by sellers to price their homes more effectively and hopefully reduce days on market.  For buyers, this information can help you determine if you are in a Buyers or Sellers Market and to structure your offer, accordingly.

Buyer’s Market: Over 7 months of supply
Balanced Market: 5 to 7 months of supply
Seller’s Market: Less than 5 months of supply

The AR is not the only thing you will need to determine a market’s condition.  Specific property features, condition, location and of course price will typically be more important in determining how fast a property will actually sell than any statistical formula.

If you have any questions about Absorption Rates or need assistance calculating the AR for a specific market or property type please feel free to contact us through this blog or email us at appraisals@coyleappraisals.com