High mortgage rates and a lack of inventory continued to plummet the housing market, according to the latest report by the real-estate brokerage Redfin.
New listings of homes for sale declined 19% year-over-year during the four weeks ending May 7, Redfin reported.
"But despite the inventory crunch, pending sales have increased over the last week, as they typically do this time of year," Redfin said in its report. "Additionally, mortgage-purchase applications are up 5% on a seasonally adjusted basis. The pool of buyers is small but determined, with nearly half of the homes that do sell doing so within two weeks. That share has increased over the last month, which isn’t typical for this time of year."
In addition, the seasonally adjusted Redfin Homebuyer Demand Index was up from a month during the week ending May 7.
"Demand is barely declining from year-ago levels because buyers were backing off quickly at this time last year as mortgage rates rose above 5% for the first time since 2009," Redfin reported.
Moreover, Google searches for "homes for sale" increased from a month earlier during the week ending May 6. Nonetheless, lack of available homes still posed a roadblock for some potential homebuyers, Redfin said.
"This spring’s housing market is hot but cold, with scant listings making it less active than usual but fast and competitive at the same time" Redfin Deputy Chief Economist Taylor Marr said in a statement. "The good news is that buyers are out there, trying to find a seat in a game of musical chairs. The bad news is there aren’t enough chairs. A lot of potential home sales are locked up until mortgage rates come down to a level for which current owners would be willing to trade in their 3% rate. The problem is that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon, as although inflation is steadily coming down from last year’s record-high levels, it’s still above target."
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Home prices rise after months of decline
Despite the increase in home sales, potential homebuyers are finding themselves in a high-price environment, according to the latest CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices report.
In fact, home prices across the U.S. increased by 2% annually in February after seven consecutive months of price drops, CoreLogic reported. Particularly, The 10-city and 20-city composites both increased by 0.4% on an annual basis and rose by 0.3% and 0.2%, respectively, on a month-to-month basis, CoreLogic reported. In addition, homebuyers faced high mortgage rates.
"The results released today pre-date the disruptions in the commercial banking industry, which began in early March," Craig Lazzara, S&P Dow Jones Indices managing director, said in a statement. "Although forecasts are mixed, so far the Federal Reserve seems focused on its inflation-reduction targets, which suggests that interest rates may remain elevated, at least in the near term."
"Mortgage financing and the prospect of economic weakness are therefore likely to remain a headwind for housing prices for at least the next several months," Lazzara continued.
However, other experts said they expect housing prices to cool off in 2023. Experts polled by Zillow forecast home prices to decline by 1.6% through the year. However, they also predicted that home prices could rise at an average rate of 3.5% per year from 2024 to 2027.
"Prices should generally flatten out in 2023, helping buyers to catch up," Zillow said in its report. "The sheer number of people in the first-time homebuyer age range and a lack of inventory should limit price declines. A return to more normal growth would be welcome after the rollercoaster ride that home prices have been on lately."
In addition, these experts said they expected a more welcoming mortgage rate environment to come soon. Asked when 30-year fixed loans will be highest between now and 2025, 63% said it would be the first quarter of 2023.
"Falling rates are far more helpful for affordability than falling home prices, at least at the scale of recent movements," Zillow said in its report.
"The majority of experts are now predicting an outright decline in U.S. home prices in 2023," Zillow continued. "Although mortgage rates have moderated and are expected to remain close to the 6% level at year-end, the 2022 rate spike – and the record-high mortgage costs it ushered in – continues to shake home price expectations and market psychology.
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Federal Reserve interest rate hikes continue
The interest rate environment remains uncertain, as the Fed continued to raise interest rates in an effort to reduce inflation.
Most recently in May the Fed increased interest rates by 25 basis points and pushed the federal funds rate to a targeted range of 5% to 5.25%. That’s its highest level in 16 years. Nonetheless, the Fed has expressed it’s still trying to get more done.
"We remain committed to bringing inflation back down to our 2% goal and to keep longer-term inflation expectations well anchored," Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said at a press conference. "Reducing inflation is likely to require a period of below-trend growth and some softening of labor market conditions. Restoring price stability is essential to set the stage for achieving maximum employment and stable prices over the longer run."
Inflation remained far from the Fed’s 2% target range. Inflation increased 4.9% year-over-year in April, based on the latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) reading.
"Inflation remains too high, and the clock is ticking before the Fed's next meeting," Morning Consult Chief Economist John Leer said in a statement. "After falling from 40-year highs, inflation appears to be settling in at an uncomfortably elevated level.
"Rate hikes are back on the table at the Fed's June meeting, although ongoing stresses in the banking sector may tighten financial conditions on their own, effectively tightening monetary policy without additional intervention from the Fed," Leer continued.
And in light of high inflation and evidence of a strong job market, many Americans fear an upcoming recession, according to a study by Morning Consult. In fact, 75% of Americans were concerned about widespread job losses, Morning Consult said.
Some experts also expect a recession to be on the horizon.
"The economy is still expected to enter a modest recession in the second half of the year, though unusual dynamics in the current economic cycle continue to complicate forecasting the exact timing," according to Fannie Mae’s Economic and Strategic Research (ESR) Group's latest monthly commentary. "Fundamentally, the ESR Group notes that consumer spending remains unsustainably high compared to incomes and that recession is the typical conclusion to a monetary policy tightening regimen. However, the usual channels through which monetary policy helps slow the economy may be disrupted, as evidenced by recent increases in new auto sales resulting from improving supply conditions and a more upbeat outlook from homebuilders. Still, the ESR Group believes a modest recession is the likeliest outcome – and that its timing remains the principal outstanding question – as the Fed is likely to maintain tighter policy for longer if wage-related inflationary pressures do not subside."
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