The U.S. housing market has been a subject of intense scrutiny, especially given the economic fluctuations and the highest mortgage rates in nearly 23 years. Despite these factors, the market has shown remarkable resilience. This comprehensive analysis delves into various aspects of the housing market, including price trends, supply constraints, and expert opinions, to assess whether a market crash is imminent.
Contrary to the notion that a “housing recession” would lead to a correction in home prices, the market has continued to experience gains. According to the Case-Shiller home price index, 19 out of 20 markets measured showed month-over-month increases in July. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) further corroborates this trend, stating that more than half of U.S. metro areas registered home price gains in the second quarter of 2023. The median sale prices of existing homes reached near-record highs, standing at $407,100 in August 2023, a 3.9% year-over-year increase.
One of the primary drivers of this price stability is the acute shortage of housing supply. NAR’s data indicates only a 3.3-month supply in August, which is significantly below the 5 to 6 months needed for a balanced market. Rick Arvielo, head of mortgage firm New American Funding, and Skylar Olsen, chief economist at Zillow, both agree that the supply-and-demand imbalance is a critical factor preventing a decline in house prices.
The Federal Reserve has been closely monitoring the housing market, given its sensitivity to interest rates. Jerome Powell, the Fed Chairman, emphasized that housing is one of the first sectors to be affected by rate changes, either positively or negatively.
Expert Consensus on Market Stability
Despite the high mortgage rates and potential for a recession, housing economists and analysts are in agreement that any market correction will likely be modest. They do not anticipate price drops akin to those experienced during the Great Recession. The odds of a market crash, according to Bankrate’s most recent expert survey, stand at 59%.
Key Market Indicators
- The average mortgage interest rate on a 30-year loan was 7.42% as of September 20, the highest since December 2000.
- Home sales fell by 0.7% from July to August 2023, with a year-over-year decline of 15.3%.
- Foreclosure filings were down by 2% year-over-year in August 2023, indicating a stable market.
Factors Mitigating a Market Crash
Several compelling reasons suggest that a market crash is not imminent:
- Low Inventories: The ongoing lack of supply prevents a drastic price drop.
- Cautious Homebuilders: The pace of construction has been conservative, avoiding an oversupply situation.
- Demographic Trends: Millennials and Hispanics, who are keen on homeownership, are entering their prime buying years.
- Strict Lending Standards: Unlike the pre-2008 era, lending standards are stringent, mitigating the risk of a crash.
- Muted Foreclosure Activity: The absence of a foreclosure crisis adds stability to the market.
The U.S. housing market, although stretched in terms of affordability, is not on the brink of a crash. The market’s resilience is attributed to a combination of factors, including supply constraints, demographic trends, and stringent lending standards. While the market may experience some cooling, the consensus among experts suggests that a catastrophic crash is highly unlikely.