Comparing real estate metrics from one year to another can be challenging in a normal housing market. That’s due to possible variability in the market making the comparison less meaningful or accurate. Unpredictable events can have a significant impact on the circumstances and outcomes being compared.
Comparing this year’s numbers to the two ‘unicorn’ years we just experienced is almost worthless. By ‘unicorn,’ this is the less common definition of the word:
“Something that is greatly desired but difficult or impossible to find.”
The pandemic profoundly changed real estate over the last few years. The demand for a home of our own skyrocketed, and people needed a home office and big backyard.
Waves of first-time and second-home buyers entered the market.
Already low mortgage rates were driven to historic lows.
The forbearance plan all but eliminated foreclosures.
Home values reached appreciation levels never seen before.
It was a market that forever had been “greatly desired but difficult or impossible to find.” A ‘unicorn’ year.
Now, things are getting back to normal. The ‘unicorns’ have galloped off.
Comparing today’s market to those years makes no sense. Here are three examples:
If you look at the headlines, you’d think there aren’t any buyers out there. We still sell over 10,000 houses a day in the United States. Of course, buyer demand is down from the two ‘unicorn’ years. But, according to ShowingTime, if we compare it to normal years (2017-2019), we can see that buyer activity is still strong (see graph below):
We can’t compare today’s home price increases to the last couple of years. According to Freddie Mac, 2020 and 2021 each had historic appreciation numbers. Here’s a graph also showing the more normal years (2017-2019):
We can see that we’re returning to more normal home value increases. There were several months of minimal depreciation in the second half of 2022. However, according to Fannie Mae, the market has returned to more normal appreciation in the first quarter of this year.
There have already been some startling headlines about the percentage increases in foreclosure filings. Of course, the percentages will be up. They are increases over historically low foreclosure rates. Here’s a graph with information from ATTOM, a property data provider:
There will be an increase over the numbers of the last three years now that the moratorium on foreclosures has ended. There are homeowners who lose their home to foreclosure every year, and it’s heartbreaking for those families. But, if we put the current numbers into perspective, we’ll realize that we’re actually going back to the normal filings from 2017-2019.
There will be very unsettling headlines around the housing market this year. Most will come from inappropriate comparisons to the ‘unicorn’ years. A real estate professional is a great resource to help you keep everything in proper perspective.
If you’re trying to decide if now’s the time to sell your house, here’s what you should know. The limited number of homes available right now gives you a big advantage. That’s because there are more buyers out there than there are homes for sale. And, with so few homes on the market, buyers will have fewer options, so you set yourself up to get the most eyes possible on your house.
Here’s what industry experts are saying about why selling now has its benefits:
Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at the National Association of Realtors (NAR):
“Inventory levels are still at historic lows. Consequently, multiple offers are returning on a good number of properties.”
“We have not seen the traditional uptick in new listings from existing homeowners, so undersupply of housing will continue to heighten market competition and put pressure on prices in most regions.Some markets are already heating up considerably, but price premiums that we saw last spring and summer are unlikely.”
The spring housing market has been surprisingly active this year. Even with affordability challenges and a limited number of homes for sale, buyer demand is strong, and getting stronger.
One way we know there are interested buyers right now is because showing traffic is up. Data from the latest ShowingTime Showing Index, which is a measure of buyers actively touring homes, makes it clear more people are out looking at homes than there were prior to the pandemic (see graph below):
And though there’s less traffic than the buyer frenzy of the past couple of years, we’re not far off that pace. There are a lot of interested buyers checking out available homes right now.
But why are buyers so active at a time when mortgage rates are higher than they were just last year?
The Job Market Is Growing at a Stronger-Than-Expected Pace
With inflation still high, the Federal Reserve (the Fed) repeatedly hiking the Federal Funds Rate, and a lot of chatter in the media about a recession, it might surprise you just how strong today’s job market is. What might be even more surprising is the fact that it appears to be getting stronger (see graph below):
Each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports how many new jobs were added to the U.S. job market. The graph above shows 88,000 more jobs were created in April than in March. In fact, the April numbers beat expert projections. That’s a solid indicator the job market is growing.
Unemployment Is at a Near All-Time Low
Ever since the Fed began fighting inflation, many people expected the low unemployment rate we’ve seen over the past couple of years to rise – but that hasn’t happened.
In fact, what has happened is the unemployment rate has dropped to 3.4% – a 50-year low (see graph below):
With so many people steadily employed and financially stable right now, they’re still able to seriously consider buying a home.
What This Means for You
If you’re thinking about selling your house this year, a market with active buyers is music to your ears. That’s because there’ll be increased interest in your home when you put it on the market, especially at a time when the number of homes for sale is so low.
To get started, your best resource is an experienced real estate agent. They can help you price your house appropriately, navigate the offers you’ll receive, negotiate effectively, and minimize your stress and hassle.
There are plenty of buyers out there right now trying to find a home that fits their needs. That’s because the job market is strong, and many people have the stable income needed to seriously consider homeownership. To put your house on the market and get in on the action, reach out to a trusted real estate agent.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) will release its latest Existing Home Sales Report tomorrow. The information it contains on home prices may cause some confusion and could even generate some troubling headlines. This all stems from the fact that NAR will report the median sales price, while other home price indices report repeat sales prices. The vast majority of the repeat sales indices show prices are starting to appreciate again. But the median price reported on Thursday may tell a different story.
Here’s why using the median home price as a gauge of what’s happening with home values isn’t ideal right now. According to the Center for Real Studies at Wichita State University:
“The median sale price measures the ‘middle’ price of homes that sold, meaning that half of the homes sold for a higher price and half sold for less. While this is a good measure of the typical sale price, it is not very useful for measuring home price appreciation because it is affected by the ‘composition’ of homes that have sold.
For example, if more lower-priced homes have sold recently, the median sale price would decline (because the “middle” home is now a lower-priced home), even if the value of each individual home is rising.”
People buy homes based on their monthly mortgage payment, not the price of the house. When mortgage rates go up, they have to buy a less expensive home to keep the monthly expense affordable. More ‘less-expensive’ houses are selling right now, and that’s causing the median price to decline. But that doesn’t mean any single house lost value.
Even NAR, an organization that reports on median prices, acknowledges there are limitations to what this type of data can show you. NAR explains:
“Changes in the composition of sales can distort median price data.”
For clarification, here’s a simple explanation of median value:
You have three coins in your pocket. Line them up in ascending value (lowest to highest).
If you have one nickel and two dimes, the median value of the coins (the middle one) in your pocket is ten cents.
If you have two nickels and one dime, the median value of the coins in your pocket is now five cents.
In both cases, a nickel is still worth five cents and a dime is still worth ten cents. The value of each coin didn’t change.
Actual home values are going up in most markets. The median value reported tomorrow might tell a different story. For a more in-depth understanding of home price movements, reach out to a local real estate professional.
If you’re following the news today, you may feel a bit unsure about what’s happening with home prices and fear whether or not the worst is yet to come. That’s because today’s headlines are painting an unnecessarily negative picture. Contrary to those headlines, home prices aren’t in a freefall. The latest data tells a very different and much more positive story. Local home price trends still vary by market, but here’s what the national data tells us.
If we take a year-over-year view, home prices stayed positive – they just appreciated more slowly than they did at the peak of the pandemic. To get a more detailed picture of some of the trends in the market, we need to look at monthly data.
The monthly graphs below use recent reports from three sources to show that the worst home price declines are already behind us, and prices are on their way back up nationally.
The story this more detailed monthly view tells us is that the last year has been a tale of two halves in the housing market. In the first half of 2022, home prices were climbing, and they peaked in June. Then, in July, home prices started to decline (shown in red in the graphs above). And by roughly August or September, the trend began to stabilize. As we look at the most recent data for the early part of 2023, these graphs also show a recent rebound in momentum with prices ticking back up. Monthly changes in home prices are gaining steam as we move into the busier spring season.
While one to two months doesn’t make a trend, the fact that all three reports show prices have stabilized is an encouraging sign for the housing market. The month-over-month data conveys a clear, but early, consensus that a national shift is taking place today. In essence, home prices are starting to tick back up.
Andy Walden, Vice President of Enterprise Research at Black Knight, says this about home price trends:
“Just five months ago, prices were declining on a seasonally adjusted month-over-month basis in 92% of all major U.S. markets. Fast forward to March, and the situation has done a literal 180, with prices now rising in 92% of markets from February.”
Selma Hepp, Chief Economist at CoreLogic, explains the limited supply of homes available for sale is contributing to this positive turn:
“ . . . prices in many large metros appeared to have turned the corner, with the U.S. recording a second month of consecutive monthly gains. . . . The monthly rebound in home prices underscores the lack of inventory in this housing cycle.”
Here’s What This Means for You
Sellers: If you’ve been holding off on selling because you’re worried about what was happening with home prices and how it would impact the value of your home, it may be time to jump back in and partner with an agent to list your house. You don’t have to put your needs on hold any longer because the latest data shows a turn in your favor.
Buyers: If you’ve been waiting to buy because you didn’t want to purchase something that would decrease in value, you now have the peace of mind things are looking up. Buying now lets you make your move before home prices climb more and gives you the chance to own an asset that typically grows in value over time.
If you put off your plans to move because you were worried about home prices falling, data shows the worst is already behind us and prices are actually rising nationally. Partner with a local real estate professional so you have an expert to explain what’s happening with home prices in your area.
Even though home prices have moderated over the last year, many homeowners still have an incredible amount of equity. But what is equity? In the simplest terms, equity is the difference between the market value of your home and the amount you owe on your mortgage. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) explains how your equity grows over time:
“Housing wealth (home equity or net worth) gains are built up through price appreciation and by paying off the mortgage.”
How Your Equity Can Help You Achieve Your Goals
The equity you build up over the years can be used to your advantage when you sell your current house and buy your next home. If you no longer have the space you need, it might be time to move into a larger home. Or it’s possible you have too much space and need something smaller. No matter the situation, your equity can be a powerful tool you can use to help you make a move in today’s market. That’s because it may be some (if not all) of what you need for your down payment on your next home.
And how much equity you have may surprise you. A recent survey from Realtor.comfinds many homeowners today estimate they’ve built up a significant amount of equity:
The latest data from CoreLogic helps solidify why homeowners are feeling so good about the equity they’ve likely gained over time. As Selma Hepp, Chief Economist for CoreLogic, says:
“While equity gains contracted in late 2022 due to home price declines in some regions, U.S. homeowners on average still have about $270,000 in equity, nearly $90,000 more than they had at the onset of the pandemic.”
How a Skilled Real Estate Agent Can Help
If you’re looking to leverage your equity to boost your buying power in today’s market, having a trusted agent by your side makes a difference.
A real estate professional can help you better understand the value of your home, so you’ll get a clearer picture of how much equity you likely have. As a recent article from Bankratesays:
“Hiring a skilled real estate agent can give you a realistic estimate of home prices in your area and how to price your current home. Using that figure, you can calculate how much equity you have and what your net proceeds will look like, so you can apply that money toward the down payment and closing costs of your new home.”
Having a solid understanding of your equity is key when it comes to making decisions about buying or selling your home. A skilled agent can help you navigate the often-complicated process of selling your house and ensure the transaction goes smoothly.
Today, many homeowners are sitting on a substantial amount of equity, and you may be one of them. A real estate agent can help you estimate how much equity you have and plan how you can use it toward the purchase of your next home.