Up from here? The free fall in housing market demand just concluded, says Capital Economics – Fortune

by | Jan 17, 2023 | Financial

But there might finally be some good news for builders and agents: Researchers at Capital Economics believe housing market activity is bottoming out.

“There are growing signs that housing market activity may be close to a trough. The decline in mortgage rates over the past couple of months has led to a small improvement in affordability and a rise in homebuyer sentiment, albeit from a record low. Corroborating this, mortgage applications for home purchase have ticked higher in the past couple of months, which should feed through to higher sales,” writes Sam Hall, property economist at Capital Economics.

It isn’t just Capital Economics. There’s a growing optimism among brokers and agents across the country. They’re hoping that loosening financial conditions, which saw the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate fall from 7.37% to 6.09% over the past two months, will help to give the looming spring season a little juice.

Let’s be clear: Even if housing market activity (i.e. home sales) has indeed bottomed out, it doesn’t guarantee that home sales will have a swift recovery. After all, housing affordability remains “pressurized” to a historic degree. That will happen when U.S. home prices soar 41% in just over two years and mortgage rates spike from 3% to over 6% in just a 12-month span.

“But any recovery in housing market activity this year will be tepid. Stretched affordability, a weakening economy, and falling house prices will all weigh on activity. As a result, we expect 2023 will be the weakest year for sales since 2011 and for starts since 2014,” write Capital Economics researchers.

Just because U.S. home sales might be nearing a bottom doesn’t mean we should also pencil in the bottom for U.S. home prices.

“Affordability will remain stretched,” write Capital Economics researchers. “We think house prices will need to fall by a further 6% or 7% to bring affordability back to a level that will support more normal levels of demand.”

Through October, the Case-Shiller National Home Price Index has U.S. home prices down 2.4% from the June 2022 peak. In 2023, Capital Economics expects U.S. home prices to fall 6% while the average 30-year mortgage rate slips to 5.75% by year-end. Peak to trough, Capital E …

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