If you think the real estate market is bad now, just wait. That is the argument from James Stack of InvesTech Research. Stack accurately called the last housing crisis and also forecast the slowdown in 2018. Now he is saying that 2019 is going to be the worst year for a long time. “Expect home sales to continue on a downward trend in the next 12-plus months. And there’s a significant downside risk to housing prices if a recession takes hold”, says Stack. He does admit that it is too hard to say if housing is currently in a bubble, but that prices are very likely to fall.
FINSUM: Mortgage rates have risen sharply and prices are quite elevated, so it is no wonder prices have fallen. However, real estate hasn’t seen the exuberance it did pre-Crisis, so we do not think this will be a meltdown by any means.
Real estate has been weak for several months now. Even back in the summer when the economy and markets appeared to be humming along, real estate was one of the sore spots for investors and the Fed. Well, the state of the market is becoming more apparent as new numbers from November show that existing home sales feel 7% from last year. The drop is the largest year over year fall since May 2011. Sales have declined in every month in 2018 bar one.
FINSUM: The worsening real estate market is a bit of a conundrum given the state of the labor market. Leading indicator?
It would be easy to think that real estate is headed towards a buyer’s market. Inventory has been increasing, prices gains have slowed or disappeared, rates are rising, and prices are very high. However, despite all of this, many real estate experts think 2019 will still be a better year to be a seller than a buyer. The reason why is that inventory may only increase slightly, which will keep prices relatively high and not lead to massive price cuts like in the last housing downturn. A recession still looks a little way off, which could also insulate prices as the employment market stays tight.
FINSUM: We think the housing market is definitely going to see prices stay flat or fall next year, mostly because demand is falling as rates rise. However, we do agree that the bottom is not going to fall out by any means.
Luxury real estate is an interesting corner of the housing market for a number of reasons. It is not subject to the same sort of macro trends that affect the rest of the real estate market, such as mortgage rates directly influencing pricing and demand. Therefore, it is often overlooked as a barometer of the sector. However, if you pay attention, luxury real estate actually works as a solid leading indicator of the broader real estate market. While it is insulated, it is not immune from the same forces as its mass market brethren, and rates, stock prices, foreign buying and beyond all affect it. For instance, the chief economist at Redfin comments that “When people have more wealth because of stock gains, they have more money to spend on luxury homes … But if some luxury buyers think the stock market isn’t going to do as well, there may be an increase in investment in real estate because it’s seen as a safer place to put money”.
FINSUM: The problem with correlating the stock market and luxury housing is that both stocks rising and falling can boost luxury real estate, as rising shares mean more wealth to splash out on homes, while a weaker market can boost the sector because of safe haven characteristics.
More bad news is flowing out of the housing market. For the last several months, home sales, new builds, and demand has been falling. Prices are down in some major metropolitan areas. Now, new data shows that mortgage demand is contracting. US mortgage applications fell to their lowest level since 2014 in recent weeks. This comes on the back of mortgage rates rising to their highest since 2010.
FINSUM: There have been eight rate hikes since 2018 and home prices are at lofty levels. A downturn should come as no surprise.