The run on home prices is almost over. At least that’s what economists at Realtor.com are projecting.
The real estate listing site, which is owned by News Corp, forecasts median existing home sales prices will rise 2.9% over the coming 12 months. That would mark a substantial slowdown from the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller index’s latest reading of year-over-year U.S. home price growth (up 19.5% between September 2020 and the same month this year). If Realtor.com’s projection comes to fruition, it would also be the slowest 12-month rate of price growth since 2012.
No, this wouldn’t be a housing correction or crash. However, slower price growth would provide buyers a bit of breathing room. Less bidding. More time to search for homes. And maybe even a chance for some buyers to finally save up for a down payment.
“After years of declining, the inventory of homes for sale is finally expected to rebound from all-time lows…Homebuyers will have a better chance to find a home in 2022, but fierce competition and affordability continue to be a challenge,” wrote Realtor.com researchers in their outlook.
What’s driving the cooling? A lot of it boils down to mortgage rates.
Amid the COVID-19 recession, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate plunged to a historical low of 2.7%. Those low rates coupled with the work-from-home trend (allowing buyers to stretch further into the burbs) and a demographic wave of first-time millennial homebuyers helped to spur one of the most competitive housing markets in U.S. history. But an inflation-concerned Federal Reserve is now likely to raise rates. Indeed, Realtor.com foresees the current 3.1% average 30-year rate rising to 3.6% by the end of 2022.
Rising rates, of course, would put downward pressure on price growth as it raises the cost to buy and locks some buyers out altogether. Let’s say a homebuyer took out a $500,000 mortgage at a 3.1% mortgage rate. If it’s a 30-year loan, their monthly payment before taxes or insurance would be $2,135. But if their mortgage rate were 3.6%, they would pay $2,273 per month—or nearly an additional $50,000 over the course of the loan.
When it comes to 2022 home price forecasts, the Realtor.com outlook is certainly on the lower end of the spectrum. CoreLogic and Redfin have similar outlooks, predicting year-over-year growth rates of 2.5% and 3%, respectively, next year. Meanwhile, Zillow (which is predicting 13.6% price growth), Fannie Mae (7.9%), and Freddie Mac (7%) are all much more bullish.
That said, buyers and sellers alike should take housing market forecasts with a grain of salt. Look no further than the outlooks real estate firms put out at the onset of the pandemic. During the early months of the lockdowns, Zillow and CoreLogic both projected home prices would fall by 2021. Not only did prices not fall, they have since skyrocketed.
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