Banking analysts and economists are starting to cry recession again, as the Fed is faced with a longer road than anticipated to lower inflation. The economy is still in the early days of disinflation — a temporary slowing of the pace of price inflation — and the Fed has indicated that they’ll keep rates high until inflation is under control. This uncertainty around interest rates has hit the housing market especially hard.
Mortgage rates have been volatile, making it more challenging for buyers in terms of financing and affordability. Historically, the spread between the 10-year U.S. Treasury Securities and 30-year mortgage rates has been around 1.8%. Currently, 10-year treasuries are yielding 4.08%, while the average 30-year mortgage rate is 6.65%, a spread of 2.57%. Buyers and sellers are still getting used to the dramatic mortgage rate hikes that started in early 2021. When we account for the 5% year-over-year increase in median price per square foot of a home in the United States, plus interest rates rising over 2.5%, the monthly cost to finance a home rose by 41%. Looking back two years, the monthly cost has risen by 81%.
The housing market has done what you’d expect of any market when cost rises so rapidly: It slowed down substantially. The number of home sales in 2022 was exceptionally low, and we expect sales to remain low in 2023. This isn’t as large of a concern as it was in 2020 and 2021 due to the large drop in demand.
The housing market isn’t in a recession, nor is the rest of the country. Still, potential homebuyers, and consumers overall, have far less buying power than they did in the very recent past. The broad economy is still expanding, the unemployment rate is at a 53-year low, and wage growth has been substantial, making a full recession unlikely in the near future. Homebuyers can expect a less competitive market but must continue to be decisive, as desirable homes are still selling quickly.
The Local Lowdown
This time of year, we usually see both inventory and sales increasing steadily through mid-summer. Inventory is able to grow, even with rising sales, because of the relatively high number of new listings that typically come to market in the first half of the year. However, the number of new listings in January and February hasn’t outpaced sales enough to meaningfully increase active listings, which is an early sign that inventory will struggle to grow this year. Although we expect sales to be more muted in 2023, demand is already significantly outpacing supply. Even with higher mortgage rates, the East Bay is experiencing higher demand than much of the Bay Area. People simply want to live in the East Bay, and homes are still somewhat affordable, which translates to more market participants.
Homeowners either bought or refinanced recently, locking in a historically low rate, which means they aren’t selling and fewer listings are coming to market. Moreover, many potential buyers were priced out of the market as interest rates rose; however, interest rates have been higher for enough time that buyers are more comfortable re-entering desirable markets like the East Bay. Currently, buyers aren’t facing anything similar to the hypercompetitive 2021 market, but we will likely start to see more competition among buyers in the spring. New listings fell by 40.5% year over year, while sales declined 33.7%. We still expect some inventory growth in the first half of 2023, but inventory will likely remain low.
As always, Arrive Real Estate Group remains committed to helping our clients achieve their current and future real estate goals. Our team of experienced professionals are happy to discuss the information we’ve shared in this newsletter. We welcome you to contact us with any questions about the current market or to request an evaluation of your home.