The housing market is always evolving and shifting. Attempting to predict where it will head next is like trying to catch the Golden Snitch in Quidditch … sending you flying in all directions, often to no avail. Thankfully, we have economists and industry experts who study trends to offer a glimpse of what’s likely to transpire in the housing market. It may not be a crystal ball, but it’s the closest thing we’ve got. So, here’s a roundup of expert forecasts to give you an idea of what to expect for housing in 2023.
A Buyer’s Market
According to a panel of economists and housing experts polled by Zillow, 2023 is likely to be a buyer’s market. Higher mortgage rates, combined with high home prices, have significantly cooled homebuyer demand and competition, shifting the market in favor of buyers. With fewer people vying for the same homes, buyers are less likely to encounter bidding wars, giving them more time to find the right property and negotiate a better price. However, it’s worth noting that inventory remains extremely tight as many sellers are holding off on listing their homes. Homebuyers may want to consider working with an experienced real estate agent to aid in their home search and ensure they’re submitting a competitive offer.
A Deceleration (or Decline) in Home Prices
In recent months, we’ve seen slowing home-price growth in many parts of the country, and in some markets, home values have even declined. While experts differ in their predictions on where home prices are headed, the one consistent theme is that exorbitant price increases are likely a thing of the past (at least for now). According to CoreLogic, annual U.S. home-price gains are forecasted to decelerate to 2.8% by November 2023, meaning prices will still increase but at a slower pace.
The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) foresees a gradual deceleration in home prices throughout the year, culminating with a 0.6% annual decline by Q4. Fannie Mae forecasts that house prices will decline 4.2% in 2023, while Freddie Mac predicts a more modest price decline of 0.2%. Keep in mind that the rate of price growth or contraction will vary by local market and depend largely on supply and demand.
Fewer Home Sales
Home sales have been steadily declining since early 2022, but will that trend continue in 2023? According to Freddie Mac’s forecast, total home sales activity could bottom out at around 5 million units at the end of this year, representing a decline of about 30%, which is in line with other periods of history when interest rates sharply increased. Fannie Mae expects a slightly smaller decline, with single-family home sales falling by 21.3% in 2023. The MBA anticipates new- and existing-home sales will gradually climb throughout the year but expects total annual sales to come in about 4% lower overall for new homes and 15% lower for existing homes, compared to 2022 levels. Even if home sales rise this year, they’re unlikely to surpass the 15-year high that we experienced in 2021.
A Lack of Inventory and New Construction
While 2023 is shaping up to be a buyer’s market in many ways, it may not be a true buyer’s market in the traditional sense, which is typically defined as more than six months of housing supply. That’s because many homeowners are hesitant to list their homes for sale and give up their low mortgage rates. “Some homeowners are unwilling to trade up or trade down after locking in historically low mortgage rates in recent years, increasing the need for more new-home construction to boost supply,” says Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).
But new-home construction is unlikely to bridge the inventory gap. Last year, housing starts (that is, the construction of new residential homes) declined for the first time since 2011. Reduced affordability and high construction costs have slowed the pace of new construction, and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) projects that single-family homebuilding will further decline this year compared to 2022. For the near term, housing inventory will remain below the levels needed to strike a healthy balance in the market.
What About Mortgage Rates?
The big question on everyone’s minds is … when will mortgage rates come back down? No one knows, but as long as inflation persists and the Federal Reserve continues to tighten monetary policy, mortgage rates will likely remain elevated. Conversely, if the Fed’s actions trigger a recession, mortgage rates could fall. But if you’re waiting for mortgage rates to drop below the 3% mark we saw in 2020, keep in mind that rates during that time were historically low and the result of unprecedented demand and economic shifts caused by the pandemic. If you look at average mortgage rates over time, the 30-year fixed rate has a historical average of nearly 8%.
Source: Freddie Mac, Primary Mortgage Market Survey
Bottom line: Average mortgage rates are helpful for understanding trends, but for homebuyers, personal factors such as your credit, down payment, loan type, and more can influence the rate you’ll get. So if you think rates are too high for you, talk to your Loan Officer first to run the numbers and see what kind of rate you could score.
Are We Headed for a Housing Crash?
With all of these changes underway, you may be wondering if we’re in for a repeat of the 2008 housing crash, but it’s important to note that the conditions in 2008 were very different compared to today, with housing supply being a key factor. As NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun explains, “The current lack of supply underscores the vast contrast with the previous major market downturn from 2008 to 2010, when inventory levels were four times higher than they are today." Another key factor is that regulations have been put in place requiring stricter lending standards so that today’s borrowers are at less risk of default. Based on this information, what’s occurring now is likely not a crash but rather a much-needed correction that should help bring more balance to the housing market.