Pressurized. That might be the best word to describe the current U.S. housing market. Record home price appreciation—up 43% during the pandemic—coupled with 6% mortgage rates is sidelining millions of potential homebuyers. The combination puts debt-to-income ratios for new buyers on par with levels hit during the peak of the housing bubble.
That affordability crunch has already pushed the U.S. housing market into a housing downturn. Home sales are tanking. Homebuilders are calling off projects. And real estate firms are turning to layoffs.
While it’s clear this ongoing housing downturn—spurred by the Fed’s inflation fight—will see a sharp decline in housing activity, it’s less clear how it will impact home prices.
To better understand what’s going on with home prices, Fortune looked at monthly home values as measured by the Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI). In total, we looked at data for 896 regional U.S. housing markets.
Let’s take a look at the Zillow data.
Back in May, Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi made a bold proclamation: The housing market would soon enter a home price correction. So far, he looks right. Among the 896 major regional housing markets tracked by Zillow, 117 markets saw home values fall between May 2022 and August 2022.
The housing markets getting hit the hardest by the home price correction fall into one of two groups.
The first group includes bubbly markets like Austin (down 7.4%), Boise (down 5.3%), Denver (down 4.3%), Las Vegas (down 2.3%), and Phoenix (down 4.4%). Those markets saw deep-pocketed buyers from cities like San Jose and Seattle drive up prices far beyond what local incomes would historically support. Those booms fizzled out once spiking mortgage rates sidelined even the affluent out-of-town buyers. That's why markets like Boise and Austin are now teetering on full-blown housing busts.
But the biggest price declines aren't in bubbly markets. Indeed, the biggest drops in home values can be found in high-cost tech hubs like San Francisco (down 7.8%) and San Jose (down 10.6%). Those markets got hit by a double whammy. Not only are their high-end real estate markets more rate-sensitive, but so are their tech sectors.
There's no doubt about it: Spiking mortgage rates are putting downward pressure on home prices. However, the ongoing home price correction has done little so far to chip away at the Pandemic Housing Boom gains.
In fact, just Boise and Fairbanks posted year-over-year home value declines between August 2021 and August 2022.
If one zooms out even further, the 2022 price drops in markets like Boise look even smaller—at least relative to the gains we've seen during the Pandemic Housing Boom. After the 5.3% price drop in Boise this summer is accounted for, home values in the market are still up 48.6% since March 2020.
But we could still see more Pandemic Housing Boom gains erased.
Research firms like Moody's Analytics, Zonda, John Burns Real Estate Consulting, TD Bank, and Zelman & Associates expect the home price correction to continue spreading across the country. Bubbly markets across the Sunbelt, in particular, remain at the highest risk.
“The longer that [mortgage] rates stay elevated, our view is that housing is going to continue to feel it and have this reset mode. And the affordability resetting mechanism right now that has to happen is on [home] prices. And so there are a lot of markets across the country where we’re forecasting that home prices are going to fall double digits,” Rick Palacios Jr., head of research at John Burns Real Estate Consulting, tells Fortune.
Want to stay updated on the U.S. housing market downturn? Follow me on Twitter at @NewsLambert.
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