If you’ve been paying attention to the housing market, you’ve likely noticed the relatively bumpy ride it’s had over the last couple of years. After rock-bottom mortgage rates contributed to seemingly endless bidding wars throughout 2020 and 2021, the lightning-hot market has cooled in recent months.
The latest homebuilder sentiment report reflects a slower housing market. Let’s take a closer look at the highlights of changing homebuilder sentiment and falling housing prices.
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) takes the temperature of home builders’ sentiment on a monthly basis. In the latest report, home builder sentiment dropped again. The confidence was reflected at 38 in October, which means it’s at half the level it was 6 months ago.
That represents 10 consecutive months of dropping home builder sentiment. With the exception of the uncertain times of spring 2020, this confidence reading is the lowest it has been since August 2012.
“This will be the first year since 2011 to see a decline for single-family starts,” said Robert Deitz, NAHB Chief Economist in a press release. “Given expectations for ongoing elevated interest rates due to actions by the Federal Reserve, 2023 is forecasted to see additional single-family building declines as the housing contraction continues.”
As of November, Redfin reported the national median home sale price at $397,549. That’s a 4.9% year-over-year increase. While that might seem like a steep climb, housing price growth has actually slowed down quite a bit.
Home builders aren’t the only ones warning of a potential fall in home prices. Some economists are predicting a sharp fall. The Federal Reserve is warning that home prices might fall, but it doesn’t expect anything like the unforgettable housing market crash that happened during the Great Recession.
With home builder sentiment dropping like a rock, it’s helpful to understand what factors are at play. There are many factors contributing to a changing housing market. Here’s a closer look at the reasons that stand out.
In recent months, inflation has been a main feature of the economy.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI), a popular measure of inflation, was sitting at a 7.7% year-over-year increase in the October 2022 report. Although this reflects a gradual decline from the peak earlier in the year, we are still living in highly inflationary times.
But you probably don’t need to look at a special report to know that inflation is present in a big way. You’ve likely noticed inflation as it hits your household budget. Individuals and families across the nation are forced to spend more on basics like food and electricity.
With this pressure on household budgets, it’s difficult for many would-be homeowners to pull together the funds necessary for a down payment on a home. Plus, the increased costs in other areas of their budget might make shelling out for an expensive monthly mortgage payment impossible.
In response to sky-high inflation, the Federal Reserve has been aggressively tackling the problem. Although the central bank prefers to have some level of inflation in the economy, the current inflation rate is well above the 2% target.
The Federal Reserve increases the federal funds rate when it wants to tame inflation. Throughout 2022, the Fed has instituted a series of rate hikes. As the federal funds rate increases, so do borrowing costs for homeowners.
Mortgage interest rates hit a 2022 peak of 7.08% for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. Since then, mortgage rates have fallen a bit. As of November 18, mortgage interest rates are down to 6.61%. But regardless of this small tumble, mortgage rates are still significantly higher than this time last year when the average interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 3.10%.
Higher mortgage interest rates lead to higher monthly payments for borrowers. The National Association of Realtors reported that the average monthly payment for a homebuyer in the third quarter of 2022 was $1,840. That’s significantly more than the $1,226 average in the third quarter of 2021.
Higher mortgage costs often mean that buyers can’t afford as high of a sales price. With this factor in play, the possibility of falling housing prices seems to make sense as would-be homebuyers are getting priced out of the market.
The housing market isn’t the only sector of the economy impacted by a combination of hot inflation and rising interest rates. As the real estate market shifts around us, you might be interested in adding this exposure to this asset class to your portfolio. But you might not be interested in monitoring the minutiae of the up-and-down housing market trend.
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