Toward the end of last year, there were a number of headlines saying home prices were going to fall substantially in 2023. That led to a lot of fear and questions about whether there was going to be a repeat of the housing crash that happened back in 2008. But the headlines got it wrong.
While there was a slight home price correction after the sky-high price appreciation during the ‘unicorn’ years, nationally, home prices didn’t come crashing down. If anything, prices were a lot more resilient than many people expected.
Let’s take a look at some of the expert forecasts from late last year stacked against their most recent forecasts to show that even the experts recognize they were overly pessimistic.
As the red in the middle column shows, in all instances, their original forecast called for home prices to fall. But, if you look at the right column, you’ll see all experts have updated their projections for the year-end to show they expect prices to either be flat or have positive growth. That’s a significant change from the original negative numbers.
There are a number of reasons why home prices are so resilient to falling. As Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist at First American, says:
“One thing is for sure, having long-term, fixed-rate debt in the U.S. protects homeowners from payment shock, acts as an inflation hedge – your primary household expense doesn’t change when inflation rises – and is a reason why home prices in the U.S. are downside sticky.”
A Look Forward To Get Ahead of the Next Headlines
For home prices, you’re going to continue to see misleading media coverage in the months ahead. That’s because there’s seasonality to home price appreciation and they’re going to misunderstand that. Here’s what you need to know to get ahead of the next round of negative headlines.
As activity in the housing market slows at the end of this year (as it typically does each year), home price growth will slow too. But, this doesn’t mean prices are falling – it’s just that they’re not increasing as quickly as they were when the market was in the peak homebuying season.
Basically, deceleration of appreciation is not the same thing as home prices depreciating.
If you remember the housing crash back in 2008, you may recall just how popular adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) were back then. And after years of being virtually nonexistent, more people are once again using ARMs when buying a home. Let’s break down why that’s happening and why this isn’t cause for concern.
Why ARMs Have Gained Popularity More Recently
This graph uses data from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) to show how the percentage of adjustable-rate mortgages has increased over the past few years:
As the graph conveys, after hovering around 3% of all mortgages in 2021, many more homeowners turned to adjustable-rate mortgages again last year. There’s a simple explanation for that increase. Last year is when mortgage rates climbed dramatically. With higher borrowing costs, some homeowners decided to take out this type of loan because traditional borrowing costs were high, and an ARM gave them a lower rate.
Why Today’s ARMs Aren’t Like the Ones in 2008
To put things into perspective, let’s remember these aren’t like the ARMs that became popular leading up to 2008. Part of what caused the housing crash was loose lending standards. Back then, when a buyer got an ARM, banks and lenders didn’t require proof of their employment, assets, income, etc. Basically, people were getting loans that they shouldn’t have been awarded. This set many homeowners up for trouble because they couldn’t pay back the loans that they never had to qualify for in the first place.
This time around, lending standards are different. Banks and lenders learned from the crash, and now they verify income, assets, employment, and more. This means today’s buyers actually have to qualify for their loans and show they’ll be able to repay them.
Archana Pradhan, Economist at CoreLogic, explains the difference between then and now:
“Around 60% of Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (ARM) that were originated in 2007 were low- or no-documentation loans . . . Similarly, in 2005, 29% of ARM borrowers had credit scores below 640 . . . Currently, almost all conventional loans, including both ARMs and Fixed-Rate Mortgages, require full documentation, are amortized, and are made to borrowers with credit scores above 640.”
In simple terms, Laurie Goodman at Urban Institute helps drive this point home by saying:
“Today’s Adjustable-Rate Mortgages are no riskier than other mortgage products and their lower monthly payments could increase access to homeownership for more potential buyers.”
If you’re worried today’s adjustable-rate mortgages are like the ones from the housing crash, rest assured, things are different this time.
And, if you’re a first-time homebuyer and you’d like to learn more about lending options that could help you overcome today’s affordability challenges, reach out to a trusted lender.
Wondering if it still makes sense to sell your house right now? The short answer is, yes. Especially if you consider how few homes there are for sale today.
You may have heard inventory is low right now, but you may not fully realize just how low or why that’s a perk when you go to sell your house. This graph from Calculated Risk can help put that into perspective:
As the graph shows, while housing inventory did grow slightly week-over-week (shown in the blue bar), overall supply is still low (shown in the red bars). Compared to the same week last year, supply is down roughly 10% – and it was already considered low at that time. But, if you look further back, you’ll see inventory is down even more significantly.
To gauge just how far off from normal today’s inventory is, let’s compare right now to 2019 (the last normal year in the market). When you compare the same week this year with the matching week in 2019, supply is about 50% lower. That means there are half the homes for sale now than there’d usually be.
The key takeaway? We’re still nowhere near what’s considered a balanced market. There’s plenty of demand for your house because there just aren’t enough homes to go around. As Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), explains:
“There are simply not enough homes for sale. The market can easily absorb a doubling of inventory.”
So, if you want to list your house, know that there’s only about half the inventory there’d usually be in a more normal year. That means your house will be in the spotlight if you sell now and you may see multiple offers and a fast home sale.
With the number of homes for sale roughly half of what there’d usually be in a more normal year, you can rest assured there’s demand for your house.
Before you decide to sell your house, it’s important to know what you can expect in the current housing market. One positive trend right now is homebuyers are adapting to today’s mortgage rates and getting used to them as the new normal.
To better understand what’s been happening with mortgage rates lately, the graph below shows the trend for the 30-year fixed mortgage rate from Freddie Mac since last October. As you can see, rates have been between 6% and 7% pretty consistently for the past nine months:
According to Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), mortgage rates play a significant role in buyer demand and, by extension, home sales. Yun highlights the positive impact of stable rates:
“Mortgage rates heavily influence the direction of home sales. Relatively steady rates have led to several consecutive months of consistent home sales.”
As a seller, hearing that home sales are consistent right now is good news. It means buyers are out there and actively purchasing homes. Here’s a bit more context on how mortgage rates have impacted demand recently.
When mortgage rates surged dramatically last year, escalating from roughly 3% to 7%, many potential buyers felt a bit of sticker shock and decided to hold off on their plans to purchase a home. However, as time has passed, that initial shock has worn off. Buyers have grown more accustomed to current mortgage rates and have accepted that the record-low rates of the last few years are behind us. As Doug Duncan, SVP and Chief Economist at Fannie Mae, says:
“. . . consumers are adapting to the idea that higher mortgage rates will likely stick around for the foreseeable future.”
In fact, a recent survey by Freddie Mac reveals 18% of respondents say they’re likely to buy a home in the next six months. That means nearly one out of every five people surveyed plan to buy in the near future. And that goes to show buyers are planning to be active in the months ahead.
Of course, mortgage rates aren’t the sole factor affecting buyer demand. No matter where mortgage rates stand, people will always have reasons to move, whether it’s for job relocation, changing households, or any other personal motivation. As a seller, you can feel confident there is a market for your house today. And that demand is pretty strong as buyers settle into where rates are right now.
The way buyers perceive today’s mortgage rates is shifting – they’re getting used to the new normal. Steady rates are contributing to strong buyer demand and consistent home sales.
One of the biggest challenges in the housing market right now is how few homes there are for sale compared to the number of people who want to buy them. To help emphasize just how limited housing inventory still is, let’s take a look at the latest information on active listings, or homes for sale in a given month, as it compares to more normal levels.
“On average, active inventory in June was 50.6% below pre-pandemic 2017–2019 levels.”
The graph below helps illustrate this point. It uses historical data to provide a more concrete look at how much the numbers are still lagging behind the level of inventory typical of a more normal market (see graph below):
It’s worth noting that 2020-2022 are not included in this graph. That’s because they were truly abnormal years for the housing market. To make the comparison fair, those have been omitted so they don’t distort the data.
When you compare the orange bars for 2023 with the last normal years for the housing market (2017-2019), you can see the count of active listings is still far below the norm.
What Does This Mean for You?
If you’re thinking about selling your house, that low inventory is why this is a great time to do so. Buyers have fewer choices now than they did in more normal years, and that’s continuing to impact some key statistics in the housing market. For example, sellers will be happy to see the following data from the latest Confidence Index from the National Association of Realtors (NAR):
The percent of homes that sold in less than a month ticked up slightly to 74%.
The median days on market went down to 18 days, showing homes are still selling fast when priced right.
The average number of offers on recently sold homes went up to 3.3 offers.
When supply is so low, your house is going to be in the spotlight. That’s why sellers are seeing their homes sell a little faster and get more offers right now. If you’ve thought about selling, now’s the time to make a move.
Media coverage about what’s happening with home prices can be confusing. A large part of that is due to the type of data being used and what they’re choosing to draw attention to. For home prices, there are two different methods used to compare home prices over different time periods: year-over-year (Y-O-Y) and month-over-month (M-O-M). Here’s an explanation of each.
This comparison measures the change in home prices from the same month or quarter in the previous year. For example, if you’re comparing Y-O-Y home prices for April 2023, you would compare them to the home prices for April 2022.
Y-O-Y comparisons focus on changes over a one-year period, providing a more comprehensive view of long-term trends. They are usually useful for evaluating annual growth rates and determining if the market is generally appreciating or depreciating.
This comparison measures the change in home prices from one month to the next. For instance, if you’re comparing M-O-M home prices for April 2023, you would compare them to the home prices for March 2023.
Meanwhile, M-O-M comparisons analyze changes within a single month, giving a more immediate snapshot of short-term movements and price fluctuations. They are often used to track immediate shifts in demand and supply, seasonal trends, or the impact of specific events on the housing market.
The key difference between Y-O-Y and M-O-M comparisons lies in the time frame being assessed. Both approaches have their own merits and serve different purposes depending on the specific analysis required.
Why Is This Distinction So Important Right Now?
We’re about to enter a few months when home prices could possibly be lower than they were the same month last year. April, May, and June of 2022 were three of the best months for home prices in the history of the American housing market. Those same months this year might not measure up. That means, the Y-O-Y comparison will probably show values are depreciating. The numbers for April seem to suggest that’s what we’ll see in the months ahead (see graph below):
That’ll generate troubling headlines that say home values are falling. That’ll be accurate on a Y-O-Y basis. And, those headlines will lead many consumers to believe that home values are currently cascading downward.
However, on a closer look at M-O-M home prices, we can see prices have actually been appreciating for the last several months. Those M-O-M numbers more accurately reflect what’s truly happening with home values: after several months of depreciation, it appears we’ve hit bottom and are bouncing back.
Here’s an example of M-O-M home price movements for the last 16 months from the CoreLogic Home Price Insightsreport (see graph below):
Why Does This Matter to You?
So, if you’re hearing negative headlines about home prices, remember they may not be painting the full picture. For the next few months, we’ll be comparing prices to last year’s record peak, and that may make the Y-O-Y comparison feel more negative. But, if we look at the more immediate, M-O-M trends, we can see home prices are actually on the way back up.
There’s an advantage to buying a home now. You’ll buy at a discount from last year’s price and before prices start to pick up even more momentum. It’s called “buying at the bottom,” and that’s a good thing.