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Seller’s Market

Updated on January 31, 2024
Article byAshish Kumar Srivastav
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What is a Seller’s Market?

A seller’s market is a market that is short on supply and relatively high on demand, giving the seller, who possesses the scarce commodity, the power to fix the price, making the buyer a price taker, and hence the seller is a price maker.

Key Takeaways

  • A seller’s market occurs when there is a scarcity of goods or services and a high level of demand, giving sellers the advantage in setting prices. In this scenario, sellers become price makers, and buyers are price takers. 
  • Key features of a seller’s market include limited supply, a small number of sellers, fixed prices by sellers, buyers accepting the prices, monopolistic or oligopolistic market structures, intense buyer competition, and frequent bidding or auctions. 
  • Governments may intervene in seller’s markets to prevent excessive concentration of power among sellers. 

Explanation

  • In this market, there is a limited supply of goods or services. It is common in natural resources that are not readily available. The seller controls such a market supply, giving her the power to fix the price.
  • It is also common in the property market. When the supply of property is limited, the sellers have higher bargaining power and set the prices. Because the property market is limited to geography, a supply of units in particular geography will be limited.
Seller-Market

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Characteristics of Seller’s Market

The major characteristics are discussed below:

  1. Short supply of goods and services.
  2. The limited number of sellers.
  3. Sellers dictate the price of goods and services.
  4. The buyer is the price takerPrice TakerA price taker is an individual or firm with no control over the prices of goods or services sold because they usually have small transaction sizes and trade at prevailing market prices. Individual investors act as price takers in the stock market.read more
  5. MonopolisticMonopolisticMonopolistic refers to an economic term defining a practice where a specific product or service is provided by only one entity. Hence the entity supplying the product or service has the dominance in its price-fixing and deciding on the market output.read more and oligopolistic markets.
  6. Stiff competition amongst buyers.
  7. Bidding and competitive auctions are common.

Examples

Let us understand with some examples.

Example #1

Below is an exhaustive example from the property market.

Assume a town has 10,000 houses and is seeing a lot of inbound immigration. The houses available for sale in this town are limited to 200 units. Inbound immigration is creating a higher demand than the currently available supply of houses. As a result, the new buyers of houses push the prices up.

Such markets can have a lot of competition amongst buyers to outplay each other. Such competition takes the prices to high levels. Such conditions also give birth to high speculation amongst the market participants, pushing up the prices to unsustainable levels.

Example #2

Assume a country has limited reserves of coal and the government controls the supply of coal for public and private uses. Imports are also limited as the government imposes high import duties. Because mining is licensed, only a handful of contractors are given permits to mine coal and sell it. Because coal is in short supply in this market, the sellers determine the price of the coal. In the absence of a market-driven price-setting mechanism, the coal in this market may be pricier than the coal in the international market.

How to Determine whether it is the Buyer’s or Seller’s Market?

If there is a lack of competition in the goods or services under consideration and their high prices, the market can be considered a seller’s market. In such a market, suppliers make out-sized margins, and in a perfectly competitive market, those margins will be driven southwards by more competition. Such competition does not come, and prices remain high for a prolonged period.

Guideline for Buying and Selling in Seller’s Market

Difference Between the Seller’s Market and Buyer’s Market

  1. A buyer’s market has a higher competition while a seller’s market lacks competition.
  2. Seller fixes the price in a seller’s market while the market fixes the price in the buyer’s market.
  3. Seller’s market has a short supply while supply is abundant in the buyer’s market.
  4. A seller’s market might come under regulations while a buyer’s market will almost always be driven by the market forces.
  5. Seller’s market has high prices while a buyer’s market is characterized by reasonable pricing.

Advantages

  • Advantageous for sellers as they make outsized profits.
  • In some markets seller is the biggest employment creator and employer.
  • Most of the time policymakers intervene in these markets to set things right for the smooth functioning of the market.

Disadvantages

  • Lack of competition makes the market inefficient leading to skewed price discovery.
  • Skewed price discovery sometimes leads to abnormally higher prices for buyers.
  • Sellers collude to exploit buyers hurting their interests.
  • Seller’s sometimes don’t keep their words and sell their goods to the next available buyer for a higher price.
  • It creates inequality where sellers hold disproportionate wealth while buyers remain poor.

Conclusion

  • No market remains a seller’s market for a long period. More often than not, more entrants meet abnormal profits, the extra margins vanish, and all the sellers make normal profits.
  • Governments across the world keep their eyes open for such markets. Whenever too much power is concentrated amongst the sellers, the government intervenes and brings some sanity into the market. It may do that by regulating the industry directly by framing laws or indirectly using taxation and other tools.
  • In some markets, the government is the only seller ensuring the reasonable distribution of resources for the greater good of the nation and the economy. However, the government as the sole supplier opens up significant scope for corruption, resulting in misuse of power by the few in government companies or departments. In such cases, a few benefits while most market participants suffer.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What are the risks associated with the seller’s market?

Risks associated with a seller’s market include inflated property prices, limited housing inventory, and increased competition for buyers. Homebuyers may feel pressured to make quick decisions, leading to potential overpayment or settling for properties that don’t meet their needs.

2. Is the seller’s market important to an economy?

A seller’s market can be important to an economy as it indicates strong demand and consumer confidence. It can boost economic activity in the real estate sector, leading to increased construction, higher home prices, and potential wealth creation for homeowners.

3. How does a seller’s market impact negotiations between buyers and sellers?

In a seller’s market, negotiations between buyers and sellers can become more challenging for buyers. With limited inventory, sellers have the upper hand and may be less willing to negotiate on price or other terms. Buyers may need to act quickly and offer more competitive offers to secure a property.

Recommended Articles

This has been a guide to what is the seller’s market. Here we discuss characteristics, examples, and how to determine buyers’ and seller’s markets along with guidelines for buyers & sellers. You may learn more about financing from the following articles –

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