Displaying items by tag: Mortgages
There have been concerns that the housing market could be on the verge of a decline given the stress created by high interest rates and a weakening economy. However, one reason to be sanguine about the housing market despite near-term headwinds is that household balance sheets are in strong shape.
It’s sufficient to dismiss alarmists who see another housing crash on the scale of the financial crisis and Great Recession in 2008. While economic headwinds have started to damage the standing of renters, young people, and those with lower FICO scores, there is no indication that homeowners are in a troubled position.
In fact, bankruptcy and foreclosure rates have remained low even after the expiration of the CARES Act moratorium. This is a departure from the Great Recession when many households were overly leveraged, and higher rates led to a surge in foreclosures. Another major difference is that regulations have led to higher lending standards and the disappearance of exotic mortgages.
Following the housing crisis, most buyers gravitated towards 30-year fixed mortgages. Periods of ultra-loose monetary policy also led to major waves of refinancing. Cumulatively, this means that the vast majority of households continue to enjoy low rates and have seen the value of their homes rise.
Finsum: Inflation and higher rates have been damaging to certain segments of the population. Yet, homeowners are an exception as they have locked in low rates, while showing little indications of stress.
The last few years have been brutal for first-time homebuyers. Prices have been trending higher for the last decade and accelerated in the post-pandemic period. The last couple of years have also seen affordability take a huge hit due to interest rates making mortgages more expensive, a consequence of the Fed’s battle against inflation.
Further despite many headwinds, home prices have remained flat rather than go down and provide relief to buyers. This was, in part, due to low supply as many homeowners elected to hold onto their homes and low monthly payments rather than move. However, there are some signs of positive developments.
The major one is the Fed pivoting and starting to cut rates which is expected sometime in May or June. One caveat is that declines in the mortgage rate in the summer and winter of last year led to sizable jumps in mortgage applications, indicating a healthy amount of pent-up demand if conditions ease. This means that any relief could be short-lived as prices could resume rising if activity picks up. In the interim, one group of winners could be cash buyers given that there could be some forced sellers who are unable or unwilling to refinance at higher rates.
Finsum: The sharp rise in home prices in the post-pandemic period and spike in interest rates has been brutal for prospective home buyers who have seen affordability crumble. Here’s why 2024 could present more favorable conditions.
Ivy Zelman is one of the top forecasters when it comes to the housing market. She’s made several prescient calls during her career including the housing bubble in 2006, the recovery in 2011, and recent pullback. She has been caught off guard by the resilience of home prices in 2023 despite a year of numerous challenges including high rates and a slowing economy.
For next year, she sees this strength continuing as affordability improves with falling rates, leading to a modest acceleration. She’s forecasting the 30-year fixed mortgage rate to fall to 6.4%, home sales growth to hit 5%, and prices to rise by 2%. In terms of the broader economy, her base case scenario is that current economic conditions prevail, and the Fed is successful in achieving a soft landing.
While many are focused on the current low levels of housing inventory, Zelman notes that new construction is at the highest levels since 2007. She believes that large amounts of supply will be an issue in the long-term, leading to a glut. According to her, current demand estimates are based on an incorrect figure of 1.5 million units needed annually. Instead, she believes that slower population growth will translate to slower household growth, leading to lower levels of long-term demand.
Finsum: Ivy Zelman is bullish on housing in 2024 due to falling rates and a better than expected economy. While the housing market is dealing with low levels of supply in the near-term, she believes that longer-term, excess supply is a concern.
Concerns over the banking sector are currently making things rough in the $8 trillion agency mortgage bond market. Agency mortgage bonds are widely held by banks, bond funds, and insurers as they are backed by mortgage loans from government-controlled lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They are far less likely to default than most debt. They are also easy to buy and sell quickly, which is why they were Silicon Valley Bank’s biggest investment before its troubles. However, agency mortgage bonds are vulnerable to rising interest rates like all long-term bonds. This pushed their prices down last year and also saddled banks such as Silicon Valley Bank. In fact, the risk premium on a widely followed Bloomberg index of agency MBS hit its highest level since October last week, as climbing interest rates led to volatile global markets. According to bond fund managers, this certainly reflected fears that other regional banks might have to sell their holdings. When benchmark interest rates rise, bonds that were sold at times of lower rates lose value. For instance, prices of low-coupon agency mortgage bonds started dropping about a year ago, when the Fed raised interest rates to tame inflation and also indicated that it might start selling the mortgage bonds that it owned.
Finsum:With faltering banks such as Silicon Valley Bank holding large amounts of agency mortgage bonds, the turmoil in the banking industry is roiling the $8 trillion agency mortgage bond market.
Over the last few years, the housing market has clearly been a sellers’ market, with many buyers missing out on their dream homes. But that may be changing as the market starts to cool off. In fact, 2023 could mark a turning point according to some real estate analysts. For instance, Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com, recently wrote in her housing forecast, that “there will be more homes for sale, homes will likely take longer to sell, and buyers will not face the extreme competition that was commonplace over the past few years.” Matthew Speakman, senior economist for Zillow told MarketWatch in an email, that “competition has lessened and negotiating power is flowing from sellers to buyers. This means that in many cases, buyers don’t have to settle for the first house they can win a bid on, and inspection and finance contingencies are back on the table.” In addition, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the National Association of Realtors, and the Mortgage Bankers Association all forecast some type of decline in mortgage rates next year, which would make it more affordable for buyers to secure mortgages. However, this doesn’t mean it will be a buyers’ market next year. Lisa Sturtevant, the chief economist for Bright MLS, warns that “even if buyers have more negotiating power than they had in 2021, it is still very much a seller’s market.”
Finsum:While 2023 is expected to be a better year for real estate buyers due to more inventory, less competition, and lower mortgage rates, it will still likely be a sellers’ market.