2020 Census data confirms national housing shortage, but a few regions may offer more for buyers

New construction can’t keep pace with the growing demand for single-family homes, according to the 2020 Census. While new listings are scarce in certain metros, the inventory of homes in select counties is outpacing growth nationally. See where build (iStock)

Home shoppers are in a bleak situation. Historically low mortgage rates are driving demand, but home prices are surging due to insufficient housing supply. 

The trend of low housing inventory has been years in the making, according to newly released 2020 U.S. Census data. The total number of housing units grew at approximately half the rate in 2010-2020 as it did during the previous decade, signaling a worrying trend of underbuilding.

As a result, competition among homebuyers in today's housing market is already unparalleled. Homes are selling for well above the list price, and buyers are forgoing traditional contingencies, like an inspection, in the hopes of having their offer accepted. And if that's not enough, one buyer reportedly pledged to name her first-born child after the seller, according to Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman — her offer was rejected.

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Thankfully, you don't have to sacrifice your progeny's namesake to buy a house. The 2020 Census also found that housing stock rapidly expanded in select regions: the South and the West. Some regional housing markets may be less competitive than others, so it might just be a matter of homebuyers reconsidering where they want to buy a home.

Keep reading to learn how you can buy a home in today's red-hot housing market amid inventory declines, and consider your alternatives if moving isn't an option. If you're looking to buy a home or refinance your current home loan, shop around for the best possible mortgage rate for your situation on Credible.

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Consider buying in an area with a more robust housing inventory

The District of Columbia saw the highest growth in housing inventory between 2010 and 2020. The change in housing units was 18.1%, far greater than the national average. In addition to the nation's capital, housing inventory grew the fastest in these three states:

  • Utah: 17.5%
  • North Dakota: 16.7%
  • Texas: 16.2%

But breaking it down by a state-level may not be sufficient if you're searching for a new place to settle down. That's because there's a larger concentration of growth in the counties surrounding metropolitan areas, while growth in non-metropolitan areas slowed in the past decade.

"Even Texas, the state that added the most housing units, showed decreases in more than half (52.4%) of its counties — reflecting the concentration of housing unit growth in larger metropolitan counties, with declines more common in smaller non-metropolitan counties," according to the Census Bureau.

Many counties within certain states saw much respective higher housing inventory growth than the rest of their state. Here are the top 10 fastest-growing counties in America:

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These counties, and many more, have defied the national trend of underbuilding that has led to a scarce housing inventory. In these areas, it may be possible to buy a home without the same cutthroat competition seen where housing inventory has stayed stagnant or even declined over the past 10 years.

If you have the flexibility to buy a home in one of these counties, now would be a good time to do so. With less competition in the local housing markets, it may be possible to buy a home at a fair price — and snag a record-low mortgage rate while you're at it.

Mortgage rates are holding steady below 3%, according to data from Credible, but they won't stay this low forever. The Federal Reserve predicts two rate hikes by 2023, which will inevitably cause interest rates to soar. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) forecasts 30-year mortgage rates to rise to 4.9% by 2023.

Time is running out to score a sub-3% mortgage rate on a new home. You can lock in your historically low mortgage rate in just minutes on Credible.

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5 tips for buying a home in today's market

Moving to a remote county in South Dakota may not be a feasible option for many prospective homebuyers. But if you live in a seller's market with rapid price growth due to fewer homes for sale, it may still be possible to buy a home. Here are a few tips for buying a home in today's real estate market:

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If you've tried everything to purchase a home and still can't get an offer accepted, it might be best to wait for the market in your area to cool down before trying to buy again. In the meantime, though, it's important to refinance your current home loan to take advantage of low interest rates.

Refinancing your mortgage can save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan, and even lower your monthly payments or help you pay off your mortgage faster. You can compare mortgage refinance offers on Credible without impacting your credit score.

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Have a finance-related question, but don't know who to ask? Email The Credible Money Expert at [email protected] and your question might be answered by Credible in our Money Expert column.

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