Sabrina Speianu, Economic Data Manager, realtor.com®
The national inventory of active listings increased by 26.6% over last year.
The total inventory of unsold homes, including pending listings, increased by just 1.3% year-over-year due to a decline in pending inventory (-21.9%).
Selling sentiment declined and listing activity followed, with newly listed homes declining by 13.4% on a year-over-year basis.
The median list price grew by 14.3% in August, a deceleration from recent highs.
Time on market was 42 days, 5 days more than last year but 22 days less than typical pre-pandemic levels.
Regionally, large Western markets which saw some of the most growth last year and earlier this year are now showing the greatest signs of deceleration, with larger inventory increases, more price reductions, and more quickly decelerating price growth than other regions.
Year-to-year, sales declined 2.4%. NAR’s chief economist calls it a “double whammy” for buyers who face rising mortgage rates and sustained price increases.
WASHINGTON – U.S. existing-home sales dipped in February, continuing a seesawing pattern of gains and declines over the last few months, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).
Each of the four major U.S. regions tracked in NAR’s monthly survey saw sales fall on a month-over-month basis. While sales activity year-over-year was also down overall, the South – the region that includes Florida – saw an increase while the remaining three regions reported drops.
Total existing-home sales – completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – sank 7.2% from January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.02 million in February. Year-over-year, sales decreased 2.4% (6.17 million in February 2021).
“Housing affordability continues to be a major challenge as buyers are getting a double whammy: rising mortgage rates and sustained price increases,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Some who had previously qualified at a 3% mortgage rate are no longer able to buy at the 4% rate.
“Monthly payments have risen by 28% from one year ago – which interestingly is not a part of the consumer price index – and the market remains swift with multiple offers still being recorded on most properties.”
Total housing inventory at the end of February totaled 870,000 units, up 2.4% from January and down 15.5% from one year ago (1.03 million). Unsold inventory sits at a 1.7-month supply at the current sales pace, up from the record-low supply in January of 1.6 months, but down from 2.0 months in February 2021.
“The sharp jump in mortgage rates and increasing inflation is taking a heavy toll on consumers’ savings,” Yun says. “However, I expect the pace of price appreciation to slow as demand cools and as supply improves somewhat due to more home construction.”
The median existing-home price for all housing types in February was $357,300, up 15.0% from February 2021 ($310,600), with prices higher in all four regions. It’s the 120th consecutive months for year-over-year increases – the longest-running streak on record.
Properties typically remained on the market for 18 days in February, down from 19 days in January and 20 days in February 2021, with 84% of February homes on the market for less than a month.
First-time buyers made up 29% of February sales, an increase from 27% in January, though down from 31% in February 2021.
Individual investors or second-home buyers, who make up many cash sales, purchased 19% of homes in February, down from 22% in January and up from 17% in February 2021. All-cash sales accounted for 25% of transactions in February, down from 27% in January and up from 22% in February 2021.
Distressed sales – foreclosures and short sales – represented less than 1% of sales in February, equal to the percentage seen both month-to-month and year-to-year.
According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 3.76% in February, up from 3.45% in January. The average commitment rate across all of 2021 was 2.96%.
Single-family and condo/co-op sales: Single-family home sales jumped to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.35 million in February, down 7.0% month-to-month and down 2.2% year-to-year. The median existing single-family home price was $363,800 in February, up 15.5% from February 2021.
Existing condominium and co-op sales were recorded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 670,000 units in February, down 9.5% from 740,000 in January and down 4.3% from one year ago. The median existing condo price was $305,400 in February, an annual increase of 10.9%.
“For the past couple of years, buyers have had to contend with a market of high demand, low inventory and a mix of uncertainties with COVID-19 protocols,” says NAR President Leslie Rouda Smith. “Consumers are presently challenged with higher mortgage rates, so now, more than ever, interested buyers need the trusted expertise of Realtors in order to navigate this current market.”
Regional breakdown: Existing-home sales in the Northeast slipped 11.5% in February, registering an annual rate of 690,000 – a 12.7% drop from February 2021. The median price in the Northeast was $383,700, up 7.1% from one year ago.
Existing-home sales in the Midwest sagged 11.3% from the prior month to an annual rate of 1,330,000 in February, a 1.5% decrease from February 2021. The median price in the Midwest was $248,900, a 7.5% climb from February 2021.
Existing-home sales in the South fell 5.1% in February month-to-month, posting an annual rate of 2,790,000 – which was an increase of 3.0% compared to February 2021. The median price in the South was $318,800, an 18.1% jump from one year earlier.
For the sixth straight month, the South experienced the highest pace of price appreciation compared to the other regions.
“Employment is vital for housing demand,” said Yun. “The Southern states are seeing faster job growth, and consequently, it’s the only region to experience a sales gain from a year ago.”
Existing-home sales in the West slid 4.7% from the previous month, reporting an annual rate of 1,210,000 in February, down 8.3% from one year ago. The median price in the West was $512,600, up 7.1% from February 2021.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies about monetary policy and the state of the economy before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday. Powell reiterated the Fed is gearing up to raise interest rates this month.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said on Wednesday the central bank is on track to start raising interest rates this month — likely by a quarter percentage point — in an effort to combat inflation, which is the highest it’s been in nearly 40 years.
But the Fed will proceed with caution, Powell told the House Financial Services Committee, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine adds more uncertainty to the economic outlook.
“The economics of these events are highly uncertain,” Powell said. “So far, we’ve seen energy prices move up further and those increases will move through the economy and push up headline inflation, and also they’re going to weigh on spending.”
The average price of gasoline in the U.S. approached $3.66 per gallon on Wednesday. Rising energy prices have been a significant driver of annual inflation, which hit 7.5% in January – the highest level since 1982.
Powell says it’s too soon to tell on Ukraine
Powell said it’s too soon to know how large or long-lasting price increases tied to events in Ukraine will be, so he and his colleagues on the central bank’s rate-setting committee are prepared to be flexible.
“We’re never on auto-pilot,” Powell said. “Those of us on the committee have an expectation that inflation will peak and begin to come down this year. And to the extent that inflation comes in higher or is more persistently high than that, then we would be prepared move more aggressively.”
Forecasters expect the Fed to impose additional interest rate hikes later this year in an effort to cool red-hot consumer demand, which has outstripped supply and driven prices sharply higher.
The profit on a typical home sale last year was just over $94,000, an increase of 45% from the profit in 2020 and 71% from pre-pandemic profits.
About 42% of homeowners were considered equity-rich at the end of last year
The amount of tappable equity (equity above the 20% usually required by lenders to back a mortgage) grew by $2.6 trillion last year to a record total of $9.9 trillion.
The stunning jump in home values over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic has given U.S. homeowners record amounts of housing wealth. What they choose to do with it could have impacts on the broader economy.
Annual home price gains averaged 15% in 2021, up from 6% in 2020, according to CoreLogic. Strong pandemic-driven demand, record low supply and record low mortgage rates conspired to create those hefty gains. Bidding wars are now the norm, and desperate buyers are competing with investors who want to cash in on the hot market. The upward trend is continuing, despite winter being historically the slowest season for housing.
“While we expect this year’s buyers will eventually see some relief from the 2021 frenzy, home shoppers continue to face challenging conditions in the early days of 2022,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com. “In fact, last week’s home price and time on market trends suggest competition intensified.”
“The shortage of homes for sale, that has been more than a decade in the making, will keep home prices high,”
Millennials are a massive generation—next year, there will be more than 45 million millennials between the ages of 26 and 35, which are prime homebuying years.
Unfortunately, for frustrated buyers who have had trouble finding the right homes in the right locations at the right price, there isn’t expected to be a rush of homes hitting the market.
Realtor.com economists predict the number of homes for sale, which is hovering around record lows, will tick up only 0.3%. That’s partly due to builders having a tough time ramping up construction as they contend with shortages in workers and materials, compounded by the global supply chain backups. (Single-family housing starts, which is when builders start construction, is expected to rise only 5% next year.)
There are plenty of investors snapping up single-family homes and turning them into rentals. And there is no tidal wave of foreclosures expected to hit now that the government moratoriums are expiring.
There are also more homebuyers today than there are abodes for sale.
Millennials are a massive generation—next year, there will be more than 45 million millennials between the ages of 26 and 35, which are prime homebuying years. So there would need to be substantially more homes built to keep up with the needed housing—except builders stopped building during the Great Recession and there are fewer homes going up today.
“The shortage of homes for sale, that has been more than a decade in the making, will keep home prices high,” says Hale.
Sales will also continue to climb, hitting a 16-year high as they go up by 6.6%, Realtor.com economists anticipate. That’s partly because technology has sped up the homebuying process. Plus, buyers are jumping on whatever comes up for sale in record time before the property is snapped up by another eager buyer.
Attractively priced homes in good shape are expected to continue going under contract quickly.
“Homes are selling so much faster than they have in any previous [years],” says Hale.
That speed supports increased housing turnover as more abodes change hands as folks move into their first homes or relocate, trade up into larger residences, and downsize.
The popularity of the suburbs is also likely to endure. They emerged as the places to be during the pandemic as buyers could score more square footage and bigger yards for less money than in the bigger cities.
“For years, we heard about the dying suburbs because millennials didn’t want to live there, but as they age, guess where they’re heading?” asks Hale.
Some were even moving to the burbs before the pandemic.
“This budding trend was accelerated by the needs of aging millennials, often with families, trying to grapple head-on with the realities of doing more than ever before from home,” says Hale.
Remote work will also likely be a factor. With more workers telecommuting or going into the office only a few times a week, they don’t have to contend with grueling commutes five days a week. Many are more comfortable moving farther outside of the cities where they can get larger abodes with room for a home office at an attractive price.
That’s likely to keep prices high in desirable communities.
“Shoppers were looking for affordable homes with space that could be used flexibly to accommodate working, schooling, exercising, cooking, and all of the other living and relaxing we used to take for granted,” says Hale.
It won’t be easy for first-time homebuyers
First-time buyers are likely to continue struggling to compete with the offers over the asking price and win the bidding wars.
The ace in their pocket is the work-from-home phenomenon that has allowed many white-collar professionals to work from anywhere they have a strong Wi-Fi connection. So they may be able to relocate to cheaper destinations that make up for what they lack in Michelin star restaurants with more affordable home prices.
“Maybe they’re not buying a home in or near a major city where prices are high and the market is still competitive,” says Hale. “But they can move farther away from the city to the suburbs or to an entirely new city where it’s more affordable.”
The savings many who held on to their jobs were able to amass early on in the pandemic—when the stimulus checks went out and many folks cut back on dining out and traveling—may help them with the down payments. Some buyers temporarily moved back home with families or doubled up with friends to save on housing costs as well.
“I know a lot of people are expecting housing prices and sales to peak and then decline. Instead, I think there’s enough momentum from these younger buyers who want to get into the housing market to keep sales moving forward,” says Hale. “They are going to succeed because that drive to buy a home and make it happen when you’re ready is really strong.”
Prices will stay high, inventory will remain tight, and mortgage rates will rise
Prices aren’t anticipated to come down from the highs
“The pace of price growth is going to slow notably, bringing it more in line with buyers’ incomes”
Here’s what we already know: Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the real estate market has been on a wild ride of unprecedented highs and lows—record-high home prices on one side, record-low mortgage rates and available homes for sale on the other. It’s been a time of overwhelming stress for many, gigantic profits for some, and great disorientation for most of us.
Now the housing experts say the market is “normalizing.” But what does that mean? Will home prices and rents finally come down? Will more homes go up for sale? And what does the year ahead have in store for the real estate market?
The Realtor.com® 2022 housing forecast anticipates the market will continue slowing down from the frenzy seen in the spring when prices shot up to new heights. However, prices will stay high, inventory will remain tight, and mortgage rates will rise.
The bottom line: Even as the market calms down further, it’s still expected to be challenging for buyers, especially those purchasing their first homes.
“The 2022 housing market will continue to be a seller’s market with fast-moving homes and rising prices,” says Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale. “But the competition should be a bit less intense than we’ve seen recently.”
Home prices will stay high, but price growth will continue slowing
Home prices aren’t expected to keep zooming up into the stratosphere in 2022 the way they did this year. So buyers can breathe at least a shallow sigh of relief. Instead, Realtor.com economists anticipate they’ll increase at a much slower rate of just 2.9% over this year compared with an anticipated 12% rise in 2021.
This means the double-digit price growth that confounded buyers earlier this year is expected to taper off.
However, prices aren’t anticipated to come down from the highs they reached this year due to the continuing shortage of properties for sale and hordes of buyers continuing to enter the market. They just won’t go up so much as quickly.
“Price growth is expected to move back toward a normal range, but this is on top of recent high prices,” says Hale. “So prices will [still] hit new highs.”
While that’s not great news for buyers, homes aren’t expected to cost much more than they did just a few months ago.
“The pace of price growth is going to slow notably, bringing it more in line with buyers’ incomes,” says Hale. “With prices high and mortgage rates beginning to tick up, people won’t be able to be as aggressive in what they’re willing to pay.”
An important metric in today’s residential real estate market is the number of homes available for sale. The shortage of available housing inventory is the major reason for the double-digit price appreciation we’ve seen in each of the last two years. It’s the reason many would-be purchasers are frustrated with the bidding wars over the homes that are available. However, signs of relief are finally appearing.
According to data from realtor.com, active listings have increased over the last four months. They define active listings as:
“The active listing count tracks the number of for sale properties on the market, excluding pending listings where a pending status is available. This is a snapshot measure of how many active listings can be expected on any given day of the specified month.”
What normally happens throughout the year?
Historically, housing inventory increases throughout the summer months, starts to tail off in the fall, and then drops significantly over the winter. The graph below shows this trend along with the month active listings peaked in 2017, 2018, and 2019.
What happened last year?
Last year, the trend was different. Historical seasonality wasn’t repeated in 2020 since many homeowners held off on putting their houses up for sale because of the pandemic (see graph below). In 2020, active listings peaked in April, and then fell off dramatically for the remainder of the year.
What’s happening this year?
Due to the decline of active listings in 2020, 2021 began with record-low housing inventory counts. However, we’ve been building inventory over the last several months as more listings come to the market (see graph below):There are three main reasons we may see listings continue to increase throughout this fall and into the winter.
Pent-up selling demand – Homeowners may be more comfortable putting their homes on the market as more and more Americans get vaccinated.
New construction is starting to take off – Though new construction is not included in the realtor.com numbers, as more new homes are built, there will be more options for current homeowners to consider when they sell. The lack of options has slowed many potential sellers in the past.
The end of forbearance will create some new listings – Most experts believe the end of the forbearance program will not lead to a wave of foreclosures for several reasons. The main reason is the level of equity homeowners currently have in their homes. Many homeowners will be able to sell their homes instead of going to foreclosure, which will lead to some additional listings on the market.
If you’re in the market to buy a home, stick with it. There are new listings becoming available every day. If you’re thinking of selling your house, you may want to list your home before this additional competition comes to market.
Buyers hoping for more homes to choose from may be in luck as housing inventory begins to rise. Many experts agree – new sellers listing their homes is great news for buyers and the overall market.
Although the supply increases are modest, more homes means more options for buyers. A rise in inventory may also help slow the price gains we’ve seen recently and could be a sign of good things to come.
If you’re searching for a home, rising inventory is welcome news. Let’s connect today to discuss new listings in our area.
CoreLogic’s newly released Homeowner Equity Report for the first quarter of 2021 shows U.S. homeowners with mortgages (which account for roughly 62% of all properties) have seen their equity increase by 19.6% year over year, representing a collective equity gain of over $1.9 trillion, and an average gain of $33,400 per borrower, since the first quarter of 2020.
While the coronavirus pandemic created economic uncertainty for many, the continued acceleration in home prices over the last year has meant existing homeowners saw a notable boost in home equity. The accumulation of equity has become critically important to homeowners deciding on their post-forbearance options. In contrast to the financial crisis, when many borrowers were underwater, borrowers today who are behind on mortgage payments can tap into their equity and sell their home rather than lose it through foreclosure. These conditions are reflected in a recent CoreLogic survey, with 74% of current homeowners with mortgages noting they are not concerned with owing more on their home than it is worth within the next five years.
“Homeowner equity has more than doubled over the past decade and become a crucial buffer for many weathering the challenges of the pandemic,” said Frank Martell, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “These gains have become an important financial tool and boosted consumer confidence in the U.S. housing market, especially for older homeowners and baby boomers who’ve experienced years of price appreciation.”
“Double-digit home price growth in the past year has bolstered home equity to a record amount. The national CoreLogic Home Price Index recorded an 11.4% rise in the year through March 2021, leading to a $216,000 increase in the average amount of equity held by homeowners with a mortgage,” said Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. “This reduces the likelihood for a large number of distressed sales of homeowners to emerge from forbearance later in the year.”
Negative equity, also referred to as underwater or upside down, applies to borrowers who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are currently worth. As of the first quarter of 2021, negative equity share, and the quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year changes, were as follows:
Quarterly change: From the fourth quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2021, the total number of mortgaged homes in negative equity decreased by 7% to 1.4 million homes, or 2.6% of all mortgaged properties.
Annual change: In the fourth quarter of 2020, 1.8 million homes, or 3.4% of all mortgaged properties, were in negative equity. This number decreased by 24%, or 450,000 properties, in the first quarter of 2021.
National aggregate value: The national aggregate value of negative equity was approximately $273 billion at the end of the first quarter of 2021. This is down quarter over quarter by approximately $8.1 billion, or 2.9%, from $281.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020, and down year over year by approximately $13.3 billion, or 4.6%, from $286.3 billion in the first quarter of 2020.
Because home equity is affected by home price changes, borrowers with equity positions near (+/- 5%) the negative equity cutoff are most likely to move out of or into negative equity as prices change, respectively. Looking at the first quarter of 2021 book of mortgages, if home prices increase by 5%, 195,000 homes would regain equity; if home prices decline by 5%, 260,000 would fall underwater.
Home price appreciation continues to accelerate. Today, prices are driven by the simple concept of supply and demand. Pricing of any item is determined by how many items are available compared to how many people want to buy that item. As a result, the strong year-over-year home price appreciation is simple to explain. The demand for housing is up while the supply of homes for sale hovers at historic lows.
Let’s use three maps to show how this theory continues to affect the residential real estate market.
Map #1 – State-by-state price appreciation reported by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) for the first quarter of 2021 compared to the first quarter of 2020:As the map shows, certain states (colored in red) have appreciated well above the national average of 12.6%.
Map #2 – The change in state-by-state inventory levels year-over-year reported by realtor.com:Comparing the two maps shows a correlation between change in listing inventory and price appreciation in many states. The best examples are Idaho, Utah, and Arizona. Though the correlation is not as easy to see in every state, the overall picture is one of causation.
The reason prices continue to accelerate is that housing inventory is still at all-time lows while demand remains high. However, this may be changing.
Is there relief around the corner?
The report by realtor.com also shows the monthly change in inventory for each state.
Map #3 – State-by-state changes in inventory levels month-over-month reported by realtor.com:As the map indicates, 39 of the 50 states (plus the District of Columbia) saw increases in inventory over the last month. This may be evidence that homeowners who have been afraid to let buyers in their homes during the pandemic are now putting their houses on the market.
We’ll know for certain as we move through the rest of the year.
Some are concerned by the rapid price appreciation we’ve experienced over the last year. The maps above show that the increases were warranted based on great demand and limited supply. Going forward, if the number of homes for sale better aligns with demand, price appreciation will moderate to more historical levels.