The top three concerns in the housing market right now are mortgage rates, home prices, and affordability.
This year the housing market has truly been defined by rising mortgage rates. Taking a look at the Freddie Mac 30-year fixed rate, we can clearly see the jump earlier this year from 3.22% to over 5%. There has been a tremendous amount of volatility in mortgage rates over the past few months. This is because inflation is the enemy of long-term interest rates. The Federal Reserve is making moves to ease inflation, and when that happens mortgage rates respond.
The general consensus is that the Federal Reserve is going to get inflation under control. If that’s the case, then mortgage rates will stabilize to about 5.3%, and then dipping below 5% in the third quarter of next year.
Home prices are appreciating, but at a slower, more moderate rate than we have seen recently.
Nationally, home prices will continue to rise due to buyer demand and low inventory.
Home prices are slowing – not depreciating, and that’s where deceleration comes into play. We saw record-breaking home-price appreciation at the beginning of this year, and we have recently seen (and will continue to see) a deceleration of home prices. The pace of appreciation is slowing. That’s deceleration. It’s not depreciation – where we would have negative price growth. We will see continued appreciation at a slower pace. This gives buyers a little bit more negotiating power.
The past two years have been an anomaly. The price growth over the past year was unsustainable.
Many experts raised their home price forecast this year. Most likely because of the continued low inventory levels and the increasing mortgage rates.
We are looking at 11.3% annual home price appreciation for 2022, keeping in mind a lot of that already happened at the beginning of this year.
Inventory is 26.3% higher than it was last year, which creates more opportunities for buyers. However, compared to the same week in 2020, inventory is down 5.4%, and down 42.2% from the same week in 2019. Historically, inventory is still low, and that’s what’s continuing to drive an upward pressure on home prices.
Housing affordability is lower than it’s been since the early 1990s. The National Association of Realtors® Housing Affordability Index, is based on 3 things: home prices, interest rates, and wages – where the higher the bar, the more affordable a home. A reading of 100 is an even reading – where the average household can afford 100% of the average mortgage payment. As right now, the average household can afford 98.5% of the average mortgage payment – so, unaffordable.
Compared to one year ago, the monthly mortgage payment rose from $1,265 to $1,944 – an increase of 53.7%. There is no doubt that homes are less affordable right now.
Another thing that we want to look at when we start to break down affordability is the average mortgage payment, or income committed to a mortgage payment, which sits at 25.4%. This assumes a 30-year fixed mortgage rate with a 20% down payment on a median-priced home with median income. 25.4% of income is dedicated to a housing payment, where 25% is typically what is recommended.
Taking a look at median household income versus qualifying income – what you need to make to buy a home, is pretty even for the South which is following the national trend.
To combat the current housing affordability right now, buyers can expand their search area and criteria – maybe consider looking a little bit further out of their desired area. Or explore alternative financing options with several different lenders. Finally, buyers can look for grants at sources like DownPaymentResource.com.
Let’s kick off this month discussing some of the biggest topics in real estate today.
Are we in a housing bubble?
Let’s take a look at home values going all the way back to World War II – the start of the modern day housing boom in the United States. Notice that 2008 was the only time homes lost significant value, and this is really for two reasons. First, loose lending standards – lack of income verification, lack of job verification, etc. Second, cash out refinances – people took the equity they had, cashed it out, and bought depreciating assets. In these times people were able to apply for a loan they didn’t qualify for, and then borrow against the equity.
All that said, this market is different. First, the forbearance numbers continue to edge downward. As of last month, there are 690,000 loans still in forbearance – well below where we started out in May of 2020. According to Black Knight, 92% of the people that entered forbearance have come out of it.
Thirty-seven percent were paid in full – those that likely took forbearance as an insurance policy and didn’t need it. Forty-four percent went through some kind of modification, refinance, or deferral – tacking it on the back end. So, 4 out of 5 people exited forbearance – a very positive sign. However, there are 18% that are still in jeopardy – they have no loss mitigation plan or are already into the loss mitigation plan. But let’s not forget that people have options today – you can sell your home with the appreciation we’ve seen over the last couple of years.
Second, the lending default risk is lower. The Urban Institute looked at Default Risk in the Mortgage Market and that helps us see how lending standards are nothing like they were in the early 2000s. There is product risk and borrower risk. The loans that were available back then are not available today. When looking at the borrower risk, think about asset profiles, credit scores – all of those things needed to qualify for a loan – have been curtailed. It’s gotten harder to qualify for a loan. Now we have to demonstrate the ability to repay.
Third, the foreclosure market is an all-time low – from a high of about 3 million homes in foreclosure to 78,000 last quarter.
Fourth, lending standards are tighter which can be attributed to less foreclosures in the market. Qualified buyers mean less defaults. During the crisis we saw about 4 times the amount of loans approved for individuals with a credit score less than 620.
Fifth, mortgage debt is not a challenge. According to the Federal Reserve, the household debt ratio is the lowest it has been since the 1970s. Why? Because of rising wages. Today, we are much better positioned than we were back in the financial crisis.
Finally, cash out refinances are extremely low. The difference in annual mortgage payments for cash out refinances was over $3,000 and $4,000 back during the housing crisis, while we hover around the $34 mark right now. There is very little change in the mortgage payment as somebody goes through a cash out refinance.
We learned a lot of lessons during the housing crash, and can see how the market dynamics are very different today. So, what is to come in the remainder of 2022? The Fed started off the month by raising the Fed funds rate. How will this affect home prices?
Looking at the most recent updated home price forecast from the top seven forecasters, we see 9% appreciation for 2022.
Beyond 2022, we will see a much more normal rate of appreciation like the pre-pandemic rate of 3.8%.
The home price expectation survey forecasts 26% cumulative home price appreciation by 2026.
As buyers search for homes, we’ve seen interest rates in the first four months of this year rise dramatically. We started the year about 3.1%, and now we’re just over 5.25% on the average 30 year fixed.
Prices are rising all around us, and that is affecting affordability.
Consider a loan amount of $300,000 (principle and interest only). In January 2021, your monthly payment would have been about $1,200. Fast forward to today’s rates, and you are looking at about $1,650 a month for the same home. Projections have this payment increasing by about $500 within the next few months.
The Housing Affordability Index shows that homes are more affordable than any time leading up to the housing crisis. So, when people say homes aren’t affordable anymore, we have to ask, “As compared to when?”
You can’t read an article about residential real estate without the author mentioning the affordability challenges that today’s buyers face. There’s no doubt homes are less affordable today than they were over the last two years, but that doesn’t mean homes are now unaffordable.
There are three measures used to establish home affordability: home prices, mortgage rates, and wages. Let’s look closely at each of these components.
1. Home Prices
The most recent Home Price Insights report by CoreLogic shows home values have increased by 19.1% from last January to this January. That was one reason affordability declined over the past year.
2. Mortgage Rates
While the current global uncertainty makes it difficult to project mortgage rates, we do know current rates are almost one full percentage point higher than they were last year. According to Freddie Mac, the average monthly rate for last February was 2.81%. This February it was 3.76%. That increase in the mortgage rate also contributes to homes being less affordable than they were last year.
The one big, positive component in the affordability equation is an increase in American wages. In a recent article by RealtyTrac, Peter Miller addresses that point:
“Prices are up, but what about wages? ADP reports that job holder incomes increased 5.9% last year but rose 8.0% for those who switched employers. In effect, some of the higher cost to buy a home has been offset by more cash income.”
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) also recently released information that looks at income and affordability. The NAR data provides a comparison of the current median family income versus the qualifying income for a median-priced home in each region of the country. Here’s a graph of their findings:
As the graph shows, the median family income (shown in blue on the graph) is greater than the qualifying income needed to buy a median-priced home (shown in green on the graph) in all four regions of the country. While those figures may vary in certain locations within each region, it’s important to note that, in most of the country, homes are still affordable.
So, when you think about affordability, remember that the picture includes more than just home prices and mortgage rates. When prices rise and rates rise, it does impact affordability, and experts project both of those things will climb in the months ahead. That’s why it’s less affordable to buy a home than it was over the past two years when prices and rates were lower than they are today. But wages need to be factored into affordability as well. Because wages have been rising, they’re a big reason that, while less affordable, homes are not unaffordable today.
To find out more about affordability in our local area, get in contact with a lender so you can make an informed financial decision. Remember, while less affordable, homes are not unaffordable, which still gives you an opportunity to buy today.
As we move into 2022, both buyers and sellers are wondering, what’s next? Will there be more homes available to buy? Will prices keep climbing? How high will mortgage rates go? For the answer to those questions and more, we turn to the experts. Here’s a look at what they say we can expect in 2022.
Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist, First American:
“Consensus forecasts put rates at about 3.7% by the end of next year. So, that’s still historically low, but certainly higher than they are today.”
Danielle Hale, Chief Economist, realtor.com:
“Affordability will increasingly be a challenge as interest rates and prices rise, but remote work may expand search areas and enable younger buyers to find their first homes sooner than they might have otherwise. And with more than 45 million millennials within the prime first-time buying ages of 26-35 heading into 2022, we expect the market to remain competitive.”
Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist, National Association of Realtors (NAR):
“With more housing inventory to hit the market, the intense multiple offers will start to ease. Home prices will continue to rise but at a slower pace.”
George Ratiu, Manager of Economic Research, realtor.com:
“We also expect a growing number of homeowners to bring properties to market, taking some pressure off high prices and offering buyers more options.”
Mark Fleming, Chief Economist, First American:
“Strong demographic demand will continue to act as the wind in the housing market’s sails.”
What Does This Mean for Buyers?
Hope is on the horizon for 2022. You should see your options grow as more homes are listed and some of the peak intensity of buyer competition starts to ease. Just remember, rising rates and prices are a great motivator for you to find the home of your dreams sooner rather than later so you can buy while today’s affordability is still in your favor.
What Does This Mean for Sellers?
Make no mistake – this sellers’ market will remain in 2022 as home prices are projected to continue climbing, just at a more moderate pace. Selling your house while buyer demand is so high will truly put you in the driver’s seat. But don’t wait too long. With more listings projected to become available, your ideal window of opportunity to stand out from the crowd won’t last forever. Work with an agent who knows your local market and current inventory conditions to ensure you have the support you need to make an educated and informed decision about selling in the coming year.
If you’re thinking of buying or selling, 2022 may be your year.