Half the house, half the money
Mar 13, 2023
Half the house, half the money Austin
By   Margaret Heidenry
  • City News
  • Housing Market Analysis
  • Interest Rates
  • State of the Housing Market
Abstract: If you're one of those home buyers whose mood has soared or plummeted based on the latest mortgage rates, it's been a tough week.

Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages climbed to 6.73 percent in the week ended March 9, according to Freddie MAC. That means homebuyers today will have to pay nearly 50 percent more each month for their homes than they did a year ago.


Such a sharp rise in housing costs could hurt the rebound seen in the housing market when interest rates were low earlier this year.


"Recent signs of a housing bottom are encouraging, but the still-changing financial and economic landscape makes it difficult to determine whether the bottom is solid enough to withstand these new challenges," Danielle Hale, Realtor.com® chief economist, said in her latest analysis. At the same time, this means that housing activity is likely to continue broadly in line with the recent low sales pace."


As for what happens next, mortgage rates "will likely play a powerful role in determining whether the market slows further or picks up speed, "Hale said. While the housing market has shown some signs of stabilization, another spike in mortgage rates could derail the recovery."


While no one is sure where interest rates will go next, stubborn inflation could force the Fed to keep beating the economy with rate hikes, which could mean mortgage rates could rise further.


And then what? We'll look at "How's the housing market this week? "In his latest column on what it all means for home buyers and sellers.


But there is one bright spot for home buyers. House prices may still be growing, but that growth is tapering off.


Prices for the week ending 4 March were up 6.3% compared with a year ago - the slowest growth since June 2020, when the market was recovering from the initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic.


What's behind the slowdown in house price growth? Believe it or not, sellers are finally getting the memo, and buyers need lower prices to offset those higher interest rates they're paying today. While many sellers are sitting on their hands in the current market, those trying to find buyers appear to have finally "calibrated their price expectations," Hale said. As a result, price growth is slowing.


When mortgage rates were low but stuck in June 2022, buyers made a last-ditch dash to buy a home, pushing prices up to an all-time high of $449,000. But by February 2023, with mortgage rates teetering between 6 and 7 percent, the median asking price for listings was $415,000.


Although listings were on sale for 18 more days in the week ending March 4 than a year ago, the pace is picking up.


"This marks the closing of the gap in the third week, and even if new listings remain scarce, it suggests buyers are active in the market, "Hale said.


While high mortgage rates haven't deterred certain buyers, sellers seem more reluctant to jump in.


New listings have fallen for 35 straight weeks, and for the week ending March 4, they plunged 26 percent from a year ago. However, the overall housing inventory, which includes both new and existing homes, continues to swell, up 61 percent from this time last year.


The increase in the number of unsold homes on the market may seem shocking until the number is put into a wider context, given our pre-pandemic days.


"It's important to remember that this year-over-year comparison is relative to early 2022, when active listings were at or near long-term lows, "Hale explained. So even after this huge year-over-year increase, the February data shows that nationally, the number of homes for sale is just over half of what it was before the pandemic."


Half the houses, 50% more money? No wonder buyers are feeling the pain. Let's hope spring brings better news.