What a year it has been for both the U.S. economy and the national housing market. After several years of above-average economic and home price growth, 2018 marked the start of a slowdown in the residential real estate market. As the year comes to a close, it’s time for me to dust off my crystal ball to see what we can expect in 2019.
The U.S. Economy
Despite the turbulence that the ongoing trade wars with China are causing, I still expect the U.S. economy to have one more year of relatively solid growth before we likely enter a recession in 2020. Yes, it’s the dreaded “R” word, but before you panic, there are some things to bear in mind.
Firstly, any cyclical downturn will not be driven by housing. Although it is almost impossible to predict exactly what will be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back”, I believe it will likely be caused by one of the following three things: an ongoing trade war, the Federal Reserve raising interest rates too quickly, or excessive corporate debt levels. That said, we still have another year of solid growth ahead of us, so I think it’s more important to focus on 2019 for now.
The U.S. Housing Market
Existing Home Sales
This paper is being written well before the year-end numbers come out, but I expect 2018 home sales will be about 3.5% lower than the prior year. Sales started to slow last spring as we breached affordability limits and more homes came on the market. In 2019, I anticipate that home sales will rebound modestly and rise by 1.9% to a little over 5.4 million units.
Existing Home Prices
We will likely end 2018 with a median home price of about $260,000 – up 5.4% from 2017. In 2019 I expect prices to continue rising, but at a slower rate as we move toward a more balanced housing market. I’m forecasting the median home price to increase by 4.4% as rising mortgage rates continue to act as a headwind to home price growth.
New Home Sales
In a somewhat similar manner to existing home sales, new home sales started to slow in the spring of 2018, but the overall trend has been positive since 2011. I expect that to continue in 2019 with sales increasing by 6.9% to 695,000 units – the highest level seen since 2007.
That being said, the level of new construction remains well below the long-term average. Builders continue to struggle with land, labor, and material costs, and this is an issue that is not likely to be solved in 2019. Furthermore, these constraints are forcing developers to primarily build higher-priced homes, which does little to meet the substantial demand by first-time buyers.
In last year’s forecast, I suggested that 5% interest rates would be a 2019 story, not a 2018 story. This prediction has proven accurate with the average 30-year conforming rates measured at 4.87% in November, and highly unlikely to breach the 5% barrier before the end of the year.
In 2019, I expect interest rates to continue trending higher, but we may see periods of modest contraction or levelling. We will likely end the year with the 30-year fixed rate at around 5.7%, which means that 6% interest rates are more apt to be a 2020 story.
I also believe that non-conforming (or jumbo) rates will remain remarkably competitive. Banks appear to be comfortable with the risk and ultimately, the return, that this product offers, so expect jumbo loan yields to track conforming loans quite closely.
There are still voices out there that seem to suggest the housing market is headed for calamity and that another housing bubble is forming, or in some cases, is already deflating. In all the data that I review, I just don’t see this happening. Credit quality for new mortgage holders remains very high and the median down payment (as a percentage of home price) is at its highest level since 2004.
That is not to say that there aren’t several markets around the country that are overpriced, but just because a market is overvalued, does not mean that a bubble is in place. It simply means that forward price growth in these markets will be lower to allow income levels to rise sufficiently.
Finally, if there is a big story for 2019, I believe it will be the ongoing resurgence of first-time buyers. While these buyers face challenges regarding student debt and the ability to save for a down payment, they are definitely on the comeback and likely to purchase more homes next year than any other buyer demographic.
Originally published on Inman News.
Economists say there are three reasons why we aren’t in a housing bubble today.
The first reason they mention is the amount of new home construction compared to the 2006 housing bubble.
Today, along the Front Range, new home starts are down 38% compared to 2006. This is despite a much higher population than 12 years ago.
A major factor that caused the bubble was the glut of new construction inventory which doesn’t exist today.
Metrostudy, a leading new home research firm, says that Front Range builders need to have built 30,000 more new homes over the last 5 years to keep up with demand.
To see the whole story about our market along with other stats and trends, watch the recording of Tuesday’s Windermere Workshop right here.
If you want to be totally clear on all the stats, facts and trends in Colorado real estate so that you know what the future value of your home looks like, watch this video.
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The shortage of homes for sale has been a major concern for buyers and real estate agents over the last few years. Windermere Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, explains the impact these shortages are having on the housing market.
Because our Northern Colorado market has been so active over the last four years, clients often ask us if we think there is a housing bubble forming.
There are several key statistics which we track closely in order to answer that question.
Here is one fact that we find to be insightful…
One of the root causes of the last housing bubble was the glut of inventory, and specifically new home inventory. Quite simply, the market was being oversupplied with new homes. The rules of economics say when there is oversupply, prices must come down.
Today, there are far fewer new home starts compared to 2004 and 2005 when the last bubble was forming – despite there being a larger population.
According to our friends at Metrostudy who track the new home market, Northern Colorado has had 4,452 new home starts in the last 12 months.
That number is only 60% of what it was at the height of construction in early 2005.
It is also interesting to note that over the last 12 months there have been 4,473 new home closings which shows that demand is keeping up with supply.
So when you drive around Northern Colorado and notice all the new homes being built, know that construction activity is far less than what is was during the bubble and that demand is keeping up with supply.
In case you missed our annual real estate Forecast event, you can reach out to us to see the presentation slides or receive a video recap of the information. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The new tax bill is expected to be signed by the end of the year. Here is a summary of what it means for your real estate…
The new tax bill:
- Retains the current law for exclusion of capital gains on a principal residence. You still need to live in a home for 2 of the last 5 years to claim a capital gains exclusion. There was a risk that this would be changed to 5 of the last 8 years, but thankfully it did not.
- Reduces the limit of deductible mortgage debt from $1 Million to $750,000.
- Retains the ability to deduct mortgage debt on second homes.
- Allows for an itemized deduction of up to $10,000 for property taxes. When the bill was first introduced, there was no allowance for a property tax deduction.
- Retains the current 1031 like-kind exchange rules which is terrific news for investors.
Windermere’s Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, explains how a strong, stable housing market is critically important to the overall U.S. economy.
There are two common concerns about the housing market that one hears from both consumers and real estate professionals alike. First, they question whether or not we are on the brink of another housing bubble, and second, they want to know why there aren’t more homes for sale.
I don’t plan on addressing the concern regarding a housing bubble in this article except to say that we are not currently in “bubble” territory, although affordability does concern me immensely. Today I would like to concentrate on the second question about the lack of homes for sale.
According to the National Association of REALTORS®, there were 1.96 million homes for sale in the United States in May 2017. When adjusted for seasonality, this falls to just below 1.9 million which is essentially the same level we saw back in 2000.
Now consider that the country has added over 21 million new households during that same time period, and you can see why this is so troubling. It is worth noting that many of these new households did move into rental properties, but this still leaves the U.S. with a substantial housing shortfall, which explains why demand for homes is so high.
With the shortage of homes for sale, you would normally expect builders to meet this pent-up demand with new construction housing but, unfortunately, this has not been the case. In fact, new single-family housing starts are running at about 800,000 (annualized), and I believe we need starts to come in at over 1 million to satisfy demand – especially as older Millennials start to create households of their own and begin thinking about buying instead of renting.
We therefore have a quandary. Trust in the housing market has clearly returned, but there are not enough homes to meet the demand of buyers, and when a buyer does find a home, they are met with very stiff competition, which is driving prices increasingly higher.
So why are we in this position and how do we get out of it?
In reality, there is no single reason for the situation we are in today. Rather it is a number of factors that, when combined, suggest to me that the market will not return to equilibrium any time soon.
The first reason for the shortfall is purely demographic. As “Boomers” age, they are not following the trends of previous generations. Many are staying in the workforce far longer than their predecessors, and, as they are postponing retirement, they do not feel compelled to downsize. In fact, almost two-thirds of Boomers plan to age in place and not move even after retirement. Without this anticipated supply of homes from downsizing Boomers, there aren’t enough homes for move-up buyers, which in turn limits the supply of homes for first-time buyers.
Secondly, as a nation we just aren’t moving as often as we used to. When I analyze mobility, it is clear that people no longer have to relocate as frequently to find a job that matches their skill set. There has been a tangible drop in geographic specificity of occupations. Where we used to move to find work, this is no longer as prevalent, which means we are moving with less frequency.
Thirdly, as mentioned earlier, builders aren’t building as many homes as they could. This is essentially due to three factors: land supply/regulation, labor, and materials. The costs related to building a home have risen rapidly since the Great Recession, and this is holding many builders back from building to their potential. Furthermore, in order to justify the additional costs, many of the homes that are being built are larger and more expensive, and this is no help for the first-time buyer who simply can’t afford a new construction price tag.
Fourthly, while the general consensus is that home prices have recovered from the major correction that was seen following the recession, this is actually not the case in some markets. In fact, there are 32 U.S. metro areas where home prices are still more than 15 percent below the pre-recession peak. As equity levels remain low, or non-existent, in these markets, many would-be sellers are waiting until they have sufficient equity in their homes before putting them on the market.
And there is still one more issue that is certain to become a major factor over the next few years: interest rates.
Imagine, if you will, the country a few years from now when interest rates have normalized to levels somewhere around 6 percent. Now consider potential home sellers who are happily locked in at a mortgage rate of about 4 percent who are considering their options. Will they sell and lose the historically low rate that they currently have? Remember that for every 1 percent increase in rates, buyers can afford 10 percent less house. If they don’t HAVE to sell, their thoughts may lead to remodeling rather than moving. I think that this is a very reasonable hypothesis which could lead us to see low inventory levels for a lot longer than many think.
With little assistance from the new home market, I believe we will suffer from low inventory levels until well into 2018.
Our best hope for a more balanced market lies with builders, so hopefully they’ll be allowed to do what they do best – build more homes.
The housing market is remarkably tight across the U.S., and you may be wondering if you should wait for home prices to slow before making your move. Windermere’s Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, shares why waiting could end up costing you more money in the long run.