Making Sense of Conflicting Housing Market News
Inventory is rising – The market is still inventory constrained.
The Feds are raising interest rates – Rates are holding steady and edging down.
Sales are down – Home prices are up.
The market is softening – The IPO market will make a hot market hotter.
It seems that whatever “story” one wants to weave about the real estate market, there is plenty of evidence to support it regardless of the point of view. So are there any solid, reliable takeaways we can glean from all of this? Here’s my take on things:
Inventory is rising. Through the end of 2017 and into 2018, inventory was hitting consistent, low levels where we were barely teetering on 1 month inventory levels for stretches at a time. With consumer confidence on an upswing, we anticipated a burst of activity as Q1 2019 unfolded. There was a “burst” of activity in the first two months of 2019, where inventory creeped into the 2 month level – something we hadn’t seen for a long time, and only briefly midway through 2018. Thus, inventory was rising – a little. But inventory levels seem to be hanging on the edge of 2 months and threatening to drop back into the 1 month range so inventory is, in fact, still constrained.
Mortgage Interest Rates
The Feds were raising rates and Q3 2018 was on an upswing where rates consistently began with a 4 (percent) for 30-year fixed rate mortgages. But, as the inflation threat receded and the housing market momentum waned, predicted multiple rate hikes did not materialize. It’s more probable now that a single rate hike will be imposed versus several. Thus, while rates were rising, they began to hold. We saw a slight downward trend that stabilized in the lower 4% range, and lenders sometimes still surprise us with an occasional rate in the high 3’s.
Overall, market volume is down in comparison with previous years. That sometimes strikes fear in those following the housing market as it imparts a sense of home value instability. However, volume relates to the number of homes sold and at what prices. We are seeing consistent, multiple offers (and I mean multiple) in our more affordable home range prices. Depending upon which micro-locale you are in around the Bay Area, the affordability range for a single family runs from about $900-1.2M in certain neighborhoods in the East Bay, to $1.1 – $1.5M in the greater SF area and parts of the Peninsula, and $1.6M – $2M in other neighborhoods. With higher number of sales in the affordable ranges, our overall volume of sales dips but we can readily report that the market is abundant with ready, able and well-financed home buyers.
A Softening Market
Amidst all the chatter of a housing bubble, the housing market softening, and a slow-down in the market, the headlines are also awash with news of Bay Area IPOs. Lyft just hit the markets. Uber, Slack, Airbnb, Pinterest, and a host of other IPOs are also lined up for 2019 (approximately 12 when I last counted) and are anticipated to create an abundance of new, wealthy buyers. Thus, there is anticipation brewing about how this will affect affordability and home values in the next couple of years. We have already seen properties that not long ago sold for $700k now selling well above $800k, with associated anecdotes in the higher price ranges. What will the IPO market do for Bay Area housing in upcoming times?
As we can see, while market news does seem to straddle both sides of the fence on given housing topics, the rationales behind the storylines do seem to line up when examining the details. I hope I’ve been able to give you a little clarity behind what it all means.
Please feel free to reach out to me anytime to discuss your real estate needs, it will be my pleasure helping you and your family as always.