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The Real Estate Market “Shift” Is Here

Looks like America's home buying binge is winding down. There's a vibe shift visible in both the official data and in the anecdata from sellers, buyers, and brokers.

Why it matters: This is just what Jerome Powell ordered. The slowdown means the Fed's rate hikes are working — cooling demand in an overheated market.

"The buyers just stopped buying," said Shauna Pendleton, an agent with Redfin. Buyers who were flush with cash courtesy of the also formerly booming stock market have completely pulled back.

  • Some listings now sit for weeks without even a showing. Some homes are sitting for 42 days without a single showing.
  • Redfin agent Robin Glaysher said five people showed up to an open house last weekend; previously there would've been a line out the door.
  • "It's a completely different market now," said Glaysher.
  • The change is a boon for some buyers — like those relying on FHA loans that require only 3.5% down, she said. In the old times they were often outbid by cash buyers, who have now vanished.

Driving the news: Nationally new home sales plunged in April, falling 16.6% from March to 591,000, well below economists' forecast of 750,000, according to data out Tuesday. It's the slowest pace since April 2020 — when the economy froze for a minute before the boom began.

  • Existing home sales — perhaps a better measure of the U.S. market since it's a much larger segment — are also trending down, falling for three straight months, according to the National Association of Realtors.
  • Mortgage rates have soared since March and with the 30-year now hovering at around 5.45%, the highest it's been in years.
  • Meanwhile, new housing supply is building. Available inventory of unsold new single-family homes jumped by 8% in April to 444,000, a 13-year high.

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Catch up quick: The real estate market has been, technically speaking, bananas since COVID, as the rise of remote work — and super-low mortgage rates — sent more people looking to upgrade their living space.

  • The surge in demand fueled bidding wars and all kinds of wild activity — buyers waiving inspections or begging sellers to pick them, for example.
  • Now, "buyers are less conciliatory, as far as giving whatever we want on the sell side,".

What they're saying: "The party is over," Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote in a research note Tuesday.

  • "We were going 90 miles an hour down the highway, and we took our foot off the gas," Michael Simonsen, CEO of Altos, a real estate analytics firm, tells Axios.
  • "The market's shifted from "irrational to more rational," Jonathan Miller, a New York based real estate appraiser, tells Axios in an email. What used to sell in 24 hours, now could take about a month.

Yes, but: This isn't 2008. Home prices haven't started falling. Looking at Western Washington: Area-wide prices for single family home sales (excluding condos) in King County also increased, climbing nearly 20% from a year ago, from $830,000 to $995,000.

  • And though the supply of newly built homes has increased, that's actually a small part of the overall market. Inventories of existing homes are still some of the lowest on record, as of April.
  • “We are starting to see signs of impact from the significant rise in mortgage rates earlier this year, such as an increase in active listings and months of inventory creeping higher, but the full impact will likely not be felt for a few months,” said Matthew Gardner, chief economist at Windermere Real Estate.
  • Commenting on growing inventory of single-family homes (up 27% from a year earlier), Young suggested higher priced homes requiring a mortgage “are feeling some heat from recent interest rates.”
  • The NWMLS report shows there was about three weeks (.78 months) of inventory of single-family homes and condos combined at the end of April. By this metric, that is the highest level in nearly 18 months. MLS data show there was .80 months of supply in October 2020.
  • With mortgage interest rates drifting upward in anticipation of the Federal Reserve’s hikes in its baseline interest rate, some brokers recommend quick action by prospective home buyers.
  • “We will not likely see interest rates back to 3%. Never before has it been more important to get preapproved and get serious about finding a home as now,” stressed Leach.

The bottom line: Though the frenzy is over, "there's still a lot of pent-up demand from people who've been shopping for a year. NOW is most like the very best time to both Buy and Sell when factoring in rising interest rates which could hit 8% by January and decreasing values which may drop 10% come January 2023.

New home sales hit 2-year low, falling well short of expectations

New home sales took a hit for the fourth-straight month in April 2022, falling well short of economic estimates and hitting a low not seen since the height of pandemic uncertainty in April 2020 as buyers grappled with the new reality of 5 percent-plus mortgage rates and rising home prices.

New single-family home sales dropped by 16.6 percent month over month, tallying the biggest monthly drop in nearly nine years, while sales plunged 26.9 percent year over year to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 591,000, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development on Tuesday. An estimate by a Bloomberg survey of economists projected a rate of 749,000 sales in April.

Mortgage applications fall further

Rising mortgage rates are having an impact on the housing industry as several areas of the industry are seeing declines.

Interest in mortgage applications is one metric being affected. Demand slipped 1.2% from the previous week, according to the weekly survey from the Mortgage Banker's Association.

Refinancing also took a hit. That index decreased 4% from the previous week and was 75% lower than the same week one year ago. 

"The 30-year fixed rate declined for the second straight week to 5.46% but remains well above what borrowers were used to over the past two years," said Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting. "Most refinance borrowers continue to remain on the sidelines as a result, and refinance applications have fallen in nine of the past 10 weeks."

1. What does the changing housing market mean for Sellers? 

2. What do increasing interest rates mean for Buyers?

3. How do increasing inventory levels affect both Buyers & Sellers?

4. What is the current forecast for home prices between now and Q1 2023?

5. What is the forecast for interest rates between now and Q1 2023?

6. What is the overall effect of inflation on the housing market?



Posted by Cary W Porter on


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