Not only did spiking mortgage rates prompt the Pandemic Housing Boom to fizzle out in the summer of 2022, they also pushed housing market transactions into free-fall mode. By December, mortgage purchase applications were down over 40% on a year-over-year basis.
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) have indeed bottomed, it doesn’t guarantee that home sales will have a swift recovery. After all, housing affordability remains “pressurized” to a historic degree. That’ll 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.