If you’re thinking of making a move, one of the biggest questions you have right now is probably: what’s happening with home prices? Despite what you may be hearing in the news, nationally, home prices aren’t falling. It’s just that price growth is beginning to normalize. Here’s the context you need to really understand that trend.
In the housing market, there are predictable ebbs and flows that happen each year. It’s called seasonality. Spring is the peak homebuying season when the market is most active. That activity is typically still strong in the summer but begins to wane as the cooler months approach. Home prices follow along with seasonality because prices appreciate most when something is in high demand.
That’s why there’s a reliable long-term home price trend. The graph below uses data from Case-Shiller to show typical monthly home price movement from 1973 through 2022 (not adjusted, so you can see the seasonality):
As the data shows, at the beginning of the year, home prices grow, but not as much as they do in the spring and summer markets. That’s because the market is less active in January and February since fewer people move in the cooler months. As the market transitions into the peak homebuying season in the spring, activity ramps up, and home prices go up a lot more in response. Then, as fall and winter approach, activity eases again. Price growth slows, but still typically appreciates.
“High mortgage rates have slowed additional price surges, with monthly increases returning to regular seasonal averages. In other words, home prices are still growing but are in line with historic seasonal expectations.”
Why This Is So Important to Understand
In the coming months, you’re going to see the media talk more about home prices. In their coverage, you’ll likely see industry terms like these:
Appreciation: when prices increase.
Deceleration of appreciation: when prices continue to appreciate, but at a slower or more moderate pace.
Depreciation: when prices decrease.
Don’t let the terminology confuse you or let any misleading headlines cause any unnecessary fear. The rapid pace of home price growth the market saw in recent years was unsustainable. It had to slow down at some point and that’s what we’re starting to see – deceleration of appreciation, not depreciation.
Remember, it’s normal to see home price growth slow down as the year goes on. And that definitely doesn’t mean home prices are falling. They’re just rising at a more moderate pace.
While the headlines are generating fear and confusion on what’s happening with home prices, the truth is simple. Home price appreciation is returning to normal seasonality. If you have questions about what’s happening with prices in your local area, connect with a real estate professional.
Toward the end of last year, there were a number of headlines saying home prices were going to fall substantially in 2023. That led to a lot of fear and questions about whether there was going to be a repeat of the housing crash that happened back in 2008. But the headlines got it wrong.
While there was a slight home price correction after the sky-high price appreciation during the ‘unicorn’ years, nationally, home prices didn’t come crashing down. If anything, prices were a lot more resilient than many people expected.
Let’s take a look at some of the expert forecasts from late last year stacked against their most recent forecasts to show that even the experts recognize they were overly pessimistic.
As the red in the middle column shows, in all instances, their original forecast called for home prices to fall. But, if you look at the right column, you’ll see all experts have updated their projections for the year-end to show they expect prices to either be flat or have positive growth. That’s a significant change from the original negative numbers.
There are a number of reasons why home prices are so resilient to falling. As Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist at First American, says:
“One thing is for sure, having long-term, fixed-rate debt in the U.S. protects homeowners from payment shock, acts as an inflation hedge – your primary household expense doesn’t change when inflation rises – and is a reason why home prices in the U.S. are downside sticky.”
A Look Forward To Get Ahead of the Next Headlines
For home prices, you’re going to continue to see misleading media coverage in the months ahead. That’s because there’s seasonality to home price appreciation and they’re going to misunderstand that. Here’s what you need to know to get ahead of the next round of negative headlines.
As activity in the housing market slows at the end of this year (as it typically does each year), home price growth will slow too. But, this doesn’t mean prices are falling – it’s just that they’re not increasing as quickly as they were when the market was in the peak homebuying season.
Basically, deceleration of appreciation is not the same thing as home prices depreciating.
The headlines have an impact, even if they’re not true. While the media said home prices would fall significantly in their coverage at the end of last year, that didn’t happen. Connect with a real estate agent so you have a trusted resource to help you separate fact from fiction with reliable data.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) is set to release its most recent Existing Home Sales (EHS) report tomorrow. This monthly release provides information on the volume of sales and price trends for homes that have previously been owned. In the upcoming release, it’ll likely say home prices are down. This may seem a bit confusing, especially if you’ve been following along and reading the blogs saying home prices have hit the bottom and have since rebounded.
So, why would this say home prices are falling when so many other price reports say they’re going back up? It all depends on the methodology of each one. NAR reports on the median home sales price, while some other sources use repeat sales prices. Here’s how those approaches differ.
The Center for Real Estate Studies at Wichita State Universityexplains median sales prices like this:
“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 . . . 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.”
Investopedia helps define what a repeat sales approach means:
“Repeat-sales methods calculate changes in home prices based on sales of the same property, thereby avoiding the problem of trying to account for price differences in homes with varying characteristics.”
The Challenge with the Median Home Sales Price Today
As the quotes above say, the approaches can tell different stories. That’s why median home sales price data (like EHS) may say prices are down, even though the vast majority of the repeat sales reports show prices are appreciating again.
Bill McBride, Author of the Calculated Risk blog,sums the difference up like this:
“Median prices are distorted by the mix and repeat sales indexes like Case-Shiller and FHFA are probably better for measuring prices.”
To drive this point home, here’s a simple explanation of median value (see visual below). Let’s say you have three coins in your pocket, and you decide to line them up according to their value from low to high. If you have one nickel and two dimes, the median value (the middle one) is 10 cents. If you have two nickels and one dime, the median value is now five cents.
In both cases, a nickel is still worth five cents and a dime is still worth 10 cents. The value of each coin didn’t change.
That’s why using the median home sales price as a gauge of what’s happening with home values may be confusing right now. Most buyers look at home prices as a starting point to determine if they match their budgets. But most people buy homes based on the monthly mortgage payment they can afford, not just the price of the house. When mortgage rates are higher, you may have to buy a less expensive home to keep your monthly housing expense affordable.
That’s why a greater number of ‘less-expensive’ houses are selling right now – and that’s causing the median home sales price to decline. But that doesn’t mean any single house lost value.
When you see the stories in the media that prices are falling later this week, remember the coins. Just because the median home sales price changes, it doesn’t mean home prices are falling. What it means is the mix of homes being sold is being impacted by affordability and current mortgage rates.
For a more in-depth understanding of home price trends and reports, reach out to a local real estate professional.
In today’s housing market, there are two main affordability challenges impacting buyers: mortgage rates that are higher than they’ve been the past couple of years, and rising home prices caused by low inventory. To overcome those challenges, many people are working with their agents to find less expensive homes. And with newly built homes making up a historically large percentage of the total available inventory today, that search often includes brand new homes.
People Are Spending Less on Newly Built Homes
The graph below uses the latest information from the Census to show, in June, more of the newly built home sales in this country were in lower price ranges than in 2022:Last year, only 58% of newly built home sales were less than $500,000. This June, that number was up to 65%. This means more people are buying less expensive newly built homes right now while affordability remains a challenge.
Builders Are Offering Lower-Cost Options
Builders have picked up on this trend and are reacting accordingly. George Ratiu, Chief Economist at Keeping Current Matters, explains:
“Builders are also responding to this shift by bringing slightly smaller homes to market in an effort to meet lower price points . . .”
New data from the Census further confirms this pattern – it shows the median sales price of newly built homes has dipped down in recent months (see graph below):And as Mikaela Arroyo, Director of the New Home Trends Institute at John Burns Real Estate Consulting, says, the builders who are most responsive to this trend are forming pathways to homeownership:
“. . . it is creating opportunities for people to be able to afford an entry-level home in an area. . . . if you get that size down, that automatically will make it a more affordable home. The [builders] that are decreasing [size] the most are probably the ones that try to build more of an affordable product.”
How an Agent Can Help
Builders producing smaller, less expensive newly built homes give you more affordable options at a time when that’s really needed. If you’re hoping to buy a home soon, partner with a local real estate agent to find out what’s available in your area. An agent can help you look at newly built homes or ones under construction nearby.
If you’re having a hard time finding a home you like in your budget, connect with a real estate professional. You need an agent who knows all about the latest inventory in your area, including homes still under construction or just built. That way you have an expert on your side who can provide information on builder reputations, builder contracts and negotiations, and more to help you with the homebuying process.