Mortgage Consultant Bob Schwab posed an interesting question on his blog recently: is purchase demand softening? He writes that over the last several years, buyer demand has far exceeded the housing supply. This has led to home prices appreciating by an average of 6.2 percent each year since 2012.
The Foot Traffic Report, Realtors Confidence Index (both National Association of Realtors), The Showing Index (ShowingTime), and The Real Estate Broker Survey (The Z Report by Zelman and Associates) are the four major reports used to measure buyer activity. Three of the four have revealed that the purchase demand may, in fact, be softening:
The Foot Traffic Report
Latest reports say buyer demand remains strong, due to supply and new construction remaining unable to keep up with buyer demand – despite a healthy economy and labor market.
The Showing Index
In July 2018, the Showing Index recorded buyer interest deceleration compared to the previous year for the third month in a row. They think buyer demand is softening.
Realtors Confidence Index
This measure reported slower homebuying activity in July 2018, down from the same month one year ago. It is the fifth straight month they’ve seen a decline, so they agree buyer demand is softening.
The Real Estate Broker Survey
The Z Report also finds buyer demand to be softening, stating that “a level of “pause” has taken hold in many large housing markets.” Their buyer demand rating of 69 (1-100 scale) is above average, but down from 74 last year.
When most of the major measures of buyer activity report that demand is softening…it may just be true. According to Bob, the strong buyers’ market directly after the housing crash was followed by a six-year stretch of a strong sellers’ market. If demand continues to soften and supply begins to grow, as expected, there will be a return to a more neutral market. Though that wouldn’t favor buyers or sellers immediately, it is a better long-term look for real estate.
A direct quote from Bob: The era of cheap money might be coming to an end. Interest rates on mortgages are up three-quarters of one percent in the last year. The Federal Reserve is expected to raise short-term rates one-quarter of one percent at their September meeting and another one-quarter of a percent in December. Come October, bonds will have to stand on their own feet again as the Fed will officially end its “quantitative easing.” There are also some early signs of wage inflation as the unemployment rate continues to improve and businesses struggle to find employees. As I always remind my clients, mortgage rates are still fantastic from a historical perspective. They are still sitting in the mid to high fours. If you are considering buying a home or refinancing a mortgage this would be a great time to make a move.”
And my take: As rates and prices have increased, we are starting to see homes sit on the market longer and sell for less than they did six months ago. It really depends on the home and location. In Parkmead, buyers seem to want single story homes with current updates and a flat yard, as with the sale of 1691 Lilac. We still have an inventory shortage, but buyers are now taking their time, and a shift isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We will see if the lull is seasonal, but it most likely we will see the rate of appreciation slow down and sellers may have to adjust what they believe the value of their home is and buyers may not get as good of a deal as they expected.
Consultant Bob Schwab has a few interesting thoughts on the difference between the housing market in 2008 and the housing market today. He essentially points out that the landscape of today’s market is radically different than 10 years ago, so comparing the two era’s – even if numbers look similar – is tricky. Here are his thoughts below:
Some are attempting to compare the current housing market to the market leading up to the “boom and bust” that we experienced a decade ago. They look at price appreciation and conclude that we are on a similar trajectory, speeding toward another housing crisis.
However, there is a major difference between the two markets. Last decade, while demand was being artificially created by extremely loose lending standards, a tremendous amount of inventory was coming to the market to satisfy that demand. Below is a graph of the inventory of homes available for sale leading up to the 2008 crash.
A normal market should have approximately 6 months supply of housing inventory. As we can see, that number jumped to over 11 months supply leading up to the housing crisis. When questionable mortgage practices ceased, and demand dried up, there was a glut of inventory on the market which caused prices to drop as there was too much supply and not enough demand.
Today is radically different!
There are those who believe that low mortgage rates have created an artificial demand in the current market. They fear that if mortgage rates continue to rise, some of the current demand will dry up (which is a possibility).
However, if we look at supply again, we can see that the current supply of homes is well below the norm of 6 months.
We will not have a glut of inventory like we did back in 2008 and home values won’t come tumbling down. Instead, if demand weakens, we will return to a normal market (approximately a 6-month supply) with historic levels of appreciation (3.6% annually).
Separate from the Schwab blog, NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun says, “It’s important to note that despite the modest year-over-year rise in inventory, the current level is far from what’s needed to satisfy demand levels. Furthermore, it remains to be seen if this modest increase will stick, given the fact that the robust economy is bringing more interested buyers into the market, and new home construction is failing to keep up.”
And First American Chief Economist Mark Fleming says, “Millennials’ lifestyle and economic decisions are some of the main reasons we currently have a lower homeownership rate than expected, based on our Homeownership Progress Index. Yet, it is reasonable to expect homeownership rates to grow as millennials continue to make important decisions, including attaining an education and, later in life, getting married and buying a home.”
Glen Bell, a very analytical realtor in Berkeley, shared some charts with us, which also give additional insights into the disparities in the market:
Bell says he predicts a recession in 2019 or 2020, and that the real estate market will be a minor factor in it. Rising interest rates may offset some buying opportunities. It’s also hard to predict how much tax reform will play into this. Prices continue to rise and might be causing more people in the middle class to flee the Bay Area.
Bob Schwab shared CoreLogic’s State of the Nation’s Housing 2018 report recently, and I wanted to pass that information along to you. This is the 30th anniversary of the report, which features CoreLogic’s home price and rent growth information. This year’s report article was authored by Molly Boesel, and you can see it in its entirety below:
The State of the Nation’s Housing 2018
On June 19, the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University released their 30th anniversary edition of the State of the Nation’s Housing report. The 2018 report highlighted some major themes including lack of housing supply, rising home prices and rents, and housing affordability.
The U.S. housing market continues to be plagued by a lack of supply of homes for sale. Months of supply available for sale is a key measure of housing supply, and is at levels that are below where they would be for the housing market to be balanced. The Harvard report points out that negative equity as reported by CoreLogic no longer appears to be a drag on sales. Negative equity shrank from 12.1 million mortgages in 2011 to 2.5 million in 2017. Rather, a factor in the low housing supply is slow growth in single-family construction that has not kept up with demand.
Low housing supply has contributed to increases in home prices. Home prices, according to the CoreLogic HPI were up by 5.9 percent for all of 2017. Prices for the lowest-cost homes (those homes priced at 75 percent or less than median) were up by 8.5 percent, compared with 4.7 percent for the highest-cost homes (those homes priced at 125 percent or more than median). Along with home price increases, there have also been increases in rents. The report highlights the CoreLogic Single-Family Rental Index (SFRI). While the SFRI is still showing increases in rent through the beginning of 2018, there has been a deceleration in the rate of increase.
Living in the Bay Area, we know the increases in home prices and rents have outpaced increase in incomes and have contributed to affordability problems. High prices and low supply constrain access to homeownership, but affordability issues are more immediate for some households. The CoreLogic SFRI shows that the lowest-cost rentals are showing the fastest rent growth, adding to affordability challenges to low-and-moderate income households. The Joint Center reports that in 2016, 38.1 million households were cost-burdened, meaning they spent more than 30 percent of their incomes on housing. While this number was down by 800,000 from 2015, it is still 6.5 million higher than it was in 2001.
I also believe the low supply in California has multiple factors. People are not moving up, but remodeling because they don’t know where they would move. Seniors also have the same problem and if they stay in California, some counties will not accept their current tax base and they often have to sell in order to buy. It is a domino effect.
I’ve included the graph above for context, and have the entire PDF report available if you’d like to see it. For any housing-specific questions, shoot me a note!
For the 71st month in a row, the housing market experienced year-over-year gains. As of January, the median existing-home price for all housing types was $240,500, which was a 5.8 percent increase from January 2017 ($227,300). According to Bob Schwab from Finance of America, this may lead many to believe that home values are overinflated.
Schwab, and Zillow, disagree with that common opinion. Zillow says: “If the housing bubble and bust had not happened, and home values had instead appreciated at a steady pace, the median home value would be higher than its current value.”
I’ve pulled some information and graphs from Schwab’s article to help demonstrate why home prices are exactly where they should be. First, a graph showing actual median home sales prices from 2000 through 2017:
By itself, this graph shows home values rising early in the century, then tumbling down, and now climbing back up. This may give off the impression that a pattern is emerging, and another tumble is coming. But, if you look at this second chart, indicating where prices would naturally go with the market had there not been a boom and bust, you see something different:
The blue bars represent where prices would have been if they increased normally, at an annual appreciation rate of 3.6 percent. By adding that percentage to the actual 2000 price and repeating for each year, we can see that prices were overvalued during the boom, undervalued during the bust, and a little bit lower than where they should be right now!
All in all, thanks to Bob Schwab for pointing out that we should be comfortable with current home values, and understand that the market actually isn’t overinflated, based on historic appreciation levels.