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The Big Story

Will rising rates normalize the housing market?

Quick Take:

Note: You can find the charts & graphs for the Big Story at the end of the following section.


Early innings for rising rates

Mortgage rates rose faster than expected in the first quarter of 2022, already surpassing forecasts for the year. The 30-year average mortgage rate rose swiftly in the two weeks after the Fed’s March meeting, up 0.5% between March 17 and 31 to 4.67%. This rapid increase has spurred purchases as buyers try to lock in lower rates before they climb higher. The data reflect the urgency buyers face. Nationally, home prices have reached yet another milestone: hitting above $200 per square foot, the highest level in history. But is the urgency justified? The answer is 100% yes, assuming you find the right home for you. Let’s dig into the numbers a little.
The average 30-year mortgage rate was 3.11% in December 2021, rising to 4.67% by the end of Q1 2022. If you bought a home in December and financed it with a $500,000 mortgage loan at 3.11%, your monthly spend on principal and interest would be $2,138 — versus $2,584 if you got the same loan in March 2022 at 4.67%. Over the life of the loan, you’ll spend $160,560 more at 4.67%. In short, every percentage point matters significantly. As an aside, refinancing has decreased 60% below last year’s levels, according to the Mortgage Brokers Association. Economists and real estate experts seem torn between rates peaking just below or just above 5%. Because the Fed indicated the path of rate hikes for the rest of the year, mortgage rates increased in anticipation and are likely to be affected less when the Fed moves the federal funds rate in the future, if it sticks to its schedule. At this point, we can almost guarantee that rates will not decline substantially this year.
As we look at historical trends in inflation, we are curious about how effective the Fed’s rate hikes will be. Rates rose significantly in the 1970s, partially due to the inflation rate at the time. Mortgage rates peaked at over 18%, which is unimaginable today. As we look at the long-term data, we see that inflation tends to decline when the federal funds rate is above the inflation level. Currently, the federal funds rate is far below inflation, and the Fed doesn’t plan to lift it near the inflation level because of the economic shock that would ensue. The current cost to borrow is actually negative, which may incentivize more people to borrow and spend more in the short term, driving inflation higher. At current mortgage and inflation levels, the borrower, not the lender, gains around 3% from borrowing.
In addition to rising rates, supply still drives home prices. In March, the housing supply ticked up ever so slightly from the all-time low in February. We are entering the spring buying season, however, with the lowest inventory on record. From March 2020 to March 2022, the housing supply declined 62%. Over the past three months, which had the lowest inventory on record, home prices increased nearly 10%. Rising rates, in the short term, boost demand because potential homebuyers want to get ahead of the increase, but in the long term, they reduce demand. Because the market is so undersupplied, less demand is actually a good thing. Home prices simply cannot maintain the rapid increases. Although a housing bubble isn’t likely yet, a sustainable growth rate is better and safer for the long term.


Big Story Data


The Local Lowdown

Quick Take:

Note: You can find the charts/graphs for the Local Lowdown at the end of this section.


Home prices close the first quarter at record highs

Single-family home and condo prices rose to all-time highs across Florida counties in March 2022 with the exception of Broward County condos, which declined from the February peak. Because sales often have a one-month lag, with homes going under contract around a month before the sale is complete, we cannot yet determine how significantly increasing rates have hit the market. Mortgage rate hikes really only lower demand in the long term, but in the short term, demand increases as buyers try to lock in a lower rate. The Florida housing market has a major advantage in that high demand is constant. Despite the huge increases in home prices over the past 12 months, the lack of housing supply will keep prices rising in the coming months.
The Fed is expected to raise interest rates by 0.25% at least six times this year, going from 0% to 1.90%. We are now entering a period where factors that affect prices are more mixed, unlike the past two years when all the factors caused prices to increase. Rising interest rates, which will hopefully curb the still-rising, 40-year-high inflation rate, will make homes less affordable and dampen demand over the course of the year. But inventory is so low that even with less demand, the market will likely remain undersupplied. It might seem counterintuitive that home prices can still appreciate after increasing so much over the past two years, but with inventory at record lows, home prices in 2022 will still increase — though at a slower rate than in 2021. With high sales relative to the available inventory, we anticipate a competitive market in the year ahead.

Low, but rising, inventory

Florida, like the rest of the country, has a historically low housing inventory. The sustained high demand and lack of new listings over the past year brought single-family home and condo supplies to record lows across markets. Although the first quarter of 2022 had the lowest inventory on record, we are pleased to see that more new listings are coming to market. If this upward trend continues into the second quarter and inventory begins to rise more substantially, that will be a large indicator that the housing market is normalizing.
Sales have still been incredibly high, especially when accounting for available supply, again highlighting demand in the area. Sellers can expect multiple offers, and buyers should come with competitive offers. The incredibly high demand we’ve seen over the past year might wane as interest rates increase; however, the supply is so low that the market can handle a drop in demand without negatively affecting prices. The 30-year average fixed-rate mortgage hasn’t climbed above 5% yet, but it almost certainly will. If mortgage rates reach 5%, demand will likely decline more substantially. In the next few months, demand will remain high relative to available supply.

Months of Supply Inventory further indicates high demand and low supply

Homes are still selling extremely quickly. The Days on Market reflects the high demand for homes in the selected Florida markets.
Months of Supply Inventory (MSI) quantifies the supply/demand relationship by measuring how many months it would take for all current homes for sale on the market to sell at the current rate of sales. The average MSI is four to five months in Florida, which indicates a balanced market. An MSI lower than that indicates that there are more buyers than sellers on the market (meaning it’s a sellers’ market), while a higher MSI indicates there are more sellers than buyers (meaning it’s a buyers’ market). Currently, single-family home and condo MSIs are exceptionally low, indicating a strong sellers’ market.


Local Lowdown Data

The Big Story

Record highs and lows in the housing market

Quick Take:

Note: You can find the charts & graphs for the Big Story at the end of the following section.

Amplified seasonal trends

Seasonality in the housing market was incredibly steady before the pandemic. Prices typically rose from January to June, when inventory was low but rising, and then flattened from July to December, when inventory was high but declining. In January 2020, homes were already undersupplied, hitting a record low with just over a million homes for sale on the market. When the pandemic hit, demand for homes exploded, dropping inventory to shockingly low levels. During the 18 months between January 2020 and June 2021, inventory declined 49% and prices increased 32%, doubling the total price increase of the previous three years combined. By January 2022, inventory had reached an all-time low, down 60% in the past two years, while home prices reached a record high, up 34%.
Home sales have only gotten quicker as the market has become more efficient. We can see this trend through the Days on Market and Months of Supply Inventory (MSI). Before the pandemic, homes were already selling more quickly, primarily because of technology and an increasingly competitive market. A more efficient market matches the right people with the right home at a fast pace, causing a drop in supply when new homes aren’t being built. MSI, which quantifies the supply-and-demand relationship, is at a record low, further indicating a sellers’ market. The low supply, high prices, and speed of purchases have shifted homebuyer makeup.
The number of first-time buyers dropped 6% over the past year, while sales to investors rose 7%. All-cash offers increased significantly, often disproportionately affecting first-time buyers, who are most likely to need financing. With rising mortgage rates, many first-time buyers will once again be hit hardest with higher monthly payments. Rates have already risen, because the Fed is expected to start increasing rates in mid-March, and they will only climb higher. Because of the rising cost, the average age of homebuyers is climbing. The average first-time buyer is now 33 years old, and the average repeat buyer is 56 years old, an all-time high. As we enter a new chapter in the housing market, one characterized by rising rates and very low supply, demand can only go one direction: down. But for now, prices aren’t in danger of declining.
Over the next several months, we expect supply to matter more than the interest rate hikes when it comes to home prices. Economists anticipate that the Fed will start the first of six incremental 0.25% increases in March. The Fed uses interest rates in particular as a tool to meet its dual mandate of maximum employment and price stability. With inflation at a near-40-year high, prices for most goods are rising while incomes are not. This situation gives the Fed little choice but to raise interest rates. Essentially, when the cost to borrow increases, fewer people want to borrow, leading to less consumer spending (less demand), which lowers prices.
As we enter this new chapter of rising mortgage rates, we don’t expect home prices to decline significantly, if at all, because supply is still such a driving factor. The low supply means that demand can decline without negatively impacting prices. We don’t expect home prices to appreciate at the record level we experienced over the past two years, but we do expect to see an increase. We are still in the middle of one of the strongest sellers’ markets in history. Buyers must come in with fast, competitive offers in this environment.

Big Story Data

The Local Lowdown

Quick Take:

Note: You can find the charts/graphs for the Local Lowdown at the end of this section.

Home prices hit record highs in front of Fed rate hikes

Single-family home and condo prices rose to all-time highs across Florida counties in February 2022 with the exception of Orange County single-family homes, which declined from the January peak. Mortgage rate hikes really only lower demand in the long-term; in the short-term, demand increases as buyers try to lock in a lower rate. The housing market in Florida has a major advantage in that people simply want to live there. Despite the huge increases in home prices over the past 18 months, Florida’s lack of housing supply will keep prices rising in the year to come.
The Fed is expected to raise interest rates by 0.25% six times this year, going from 0% to 1.50%. We are now entering a period where factors that affect prices are more mixed, unlike the past two years when all the factors caused prices to increase. Rising interest rates, which will hopefully curb the still-rising inflation, will make homes less affordable and dampen demand over the course of the year. But inventory is so low that even with less demand, the market will likely be undersupplied. It might seem counterintuitive that home prices can still appreciate after increasing so much over the past two years, but with inventory at record lows, home prices in 2022 will still increase — though at a slower rate than in 2021. With high sales relative to the available inventory, we anticipate a competitive market in the year ahead.

Record-low inventory across Florida

Florida, like the rest of the country, has a historically low housing inventory. The sustained high demand and lack of new listings over the past year brought single-family home and condo supplies to record lows across markets. We are seeing that far more people want to live in Florida than want to leave. Sales have been incredibly high, especially when accounting for available supply, again highlighting demand in the area. Sellers can expect multiple offers, and buyers should come with competitive offers. The incredibly high demand we’ve seen over the past year might wane as interest rates increase; however, the supply is so low that the market can handle a drop in demand without negatively affecting prices. The 30-year average fixed rate mortgage hasn’t climbed above 4% yet, but it almost certainly will as the Fed starts raising rates. If mortgage rates reach 5%, demand will likely decline more substantially. In the next few months, demand will remain high relative to available supply.

Months of Supply Inventory further indicates high demand and low supply

Homes are still selling extremely quickly. Days on Market declined in February, which further highlights demand, as homes typically take longer to sell in the winter.
Months of Supply Inventory (MSI) quantifies the supply/demand relationship by measuring how many months it would take for all current homes for sale on the market to sell at the current rate of sales. The average MSI is four to five months in Florida, which indicates a balanced market. An MSI lower than that indicates that there are more buyers than sellers on the market (meaning it’s a sellers’ market), while a higher MSI indicates there are more sellers than buyers (meaning it’s a buyers’ market). Currently, single-family home and condo MSIs are historically low, indicating a strong sellers’ market.

Local Lowdown Data

The Big Story

Mortgage Rate Hikes Now Definite

Quick Take:


The Fed Dual Mandate

On January 26, 2022, the Federal Reserve (the Fed) indicated that it would raise the federal funds rate as soon as March for the first time in over three years. The Fed adjusts the federal funds rate to influence broader interest rates, which directly affect the borrowing costs of banks. Generally, if bank borrowing costs are low, consumer borrowing costs will be low(er), and vice versa. The Fed uses interest rates in particular as a tool to meet its dual mandate of maximum employment and price stability. Employment and price stability are long-term indicators for home prices. 

We will start with the good news. Employment rebounded considerably from the highest spike in unemployment in modern history in spring 2020 to pre-pandemic levels by December 2021. As you might imagine, high unemployment rates for extended periods lead to less overall wealth: Fewer people buy homes, and more people experience foreclosures, thereby lowering home prices. Although unemployment seemed dire in 2020, employment is now on solid ground. If we view the current record-high 10.5 million job openings, along with the nearly 10 million new businesses created over the past two years, we get a better understanding of why unemployment dropped so significantly despite a record number of job openings. Simply put, people are working, and that is good for individual wealth and the larger economy. 

On to the kind-of-good, kind-of-bad news … rising mortgage rates could help curb inflation and create a more balanced housing market (although 2022 will surely be a sellers’ market), but it will make homes more expensive monthly, hitting first-time homebuyers the hardest. With the federal funds rate at 0% and inflation at a near-40-year high, rate hikes are expected to combat inflation. Essentially, when the cost to borrow increases, fewer people want to borrow, leading to less consumer spending (less demand), which lowers prices. We can look to the last inflationary period, the 1970s, as a loose guide. Inflation today is likely to be much more transitory than it was in the 1970s, but we can still expect a rise in mortgage rates like we saw then. Luckily, however, we will certainly not reach the 18+% mortgage rate that we saw in the early 1980s. As it was then, the Fed is obligated to do something now. While we wish that we could always be in periods of high employment, low inflation, and low interest rates, as we experienced for nearly a decade before the pandemic, we must recognize the atypical nature of that period. 

As we enter this new chapter of rising mortgage rates, we don’t expect home prices to change significantly, if at all, because supply is still such a driving factor. In December 2021, there were 57% fewer homes on the market than in December 2019. The low supply means that demand can decline without affecting prices. Does it matter if 10 offers drop to five? Probably not, and it might even create a better market. Sellers tend to become buyers, so unless you’re a first-time homebuyer, you’ll likely experience both sides of the market. Because sellers are often selling one home and buying another, it’s essential that sellers work with the right agent to ensure the transition goes smoothly. 

We don’t expect price appreciation to see the record gains we experienced over the past two years, but we do expect home prices to increase. Another factor at play over the past two years was a sharp increase in disposable income, which has now normalized. People had more money to spend over the past two years, and we saw that throughout markets: The housing market, the stock market, cryptos, art, jewelry, etc. all reached record high prices. As disposable income has dropped to a more normal level, we can expect assets to appreciate at a more normal pace.


Big Story Data

The Local Lowdown

Quick Take:

Home price movements in a rising rate environment

Single-family home prices began the year at all-time highs in the selected Florida markets. After single-family home prices appreciated significantly in the first half of 2021, it made sense that price appreciation slowed in the second half of the year, a trend that has continued into 2022. The housing market in Florida has a major advantage in that people simply want to live there. According to census data, Florida has experienced consistently high population growth for nearly a decade. The pandemic only accelerated the population growth in Florida, causing demand for housing to skyrocket.

Mortgage rate hikes really only move demand in one direction: lower. We are now entering a period in which factors that affect prices are more mixed, unlike the past two years when all the factors caused prices to increase. Rising interest rates, which will hopefully curb the still-rising inflation, will make homes less affordable and dampen demand. But inventory is so low that even with less demand, the market will likely be undersupplied. It might seem counterintuitive that home prices can still appreciate after increasing so much over the past two years, but with inventory at record lows, home prices in 2022 will still increase — though at a slower rate than in 2021. 

Condo prices have increased considerably over the past year as demand has grown. Condo prices in Miami-Dade County and Broward County reached record highs in January, while Orange County prices declined slightly from the December 2021 peak. With high sales relative to the available inventory, we anticipate a competitive market in the year ahead.


Record low inventory across Florida

We entered 2022 with historically low inventory. The sustained high demand and lack of new listings over the past year brought single-family home and condo supply to record lows across markets. We are seeing that far more people want to live in Florida than want to leave. Sales have been incredibly high, especially when accounting for available supply, again highlighting demand in the area. Sellers can expect multiple offers, and buyers should come with competitive offers. The incredibly high demand we’ve seen over the past year might wane as interest rates increase; however, the supply is so low that the market can handle a drop in demand without negatively affecting prices.


Months of Supply Inventory further indicates high demand and low supply

Homes are still selling extremely quickly. Days on Market is rising slightly for single-family homes, but this is more a function of seasonality than a lack of demand. 

Months of Supply Inventory (MSI) quantifies the supply/demand relationship by measuring how many months it would take for all current homes for sale on the market to sell at the current rate of sales. The average MSI is four to five months in Florida, which indicates a balanced market. An MSI lower than that indicates that there are more buyers than sellers on the market (meaning it’s a sellers’ market), while a higher MSI indicates there are more sellers than buyers (meaning it’s a buyers’ market). Currently, single-family home and condo MSIs are historically low, indicating a strong sellers’ market.

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