Why Aren’t Home Prices Falling as Inventory Rises?

Why Aren't Home Prices Falling as Inventory Rises?

2024 is shaping up to be a year of solid home appreciation following the numbers that are coming in from last year.

Recent reports from CoreLogic and Redfin confirm that home prices rose in 2023 despite rough homebuying conditions. Not only that, but the 2023 numbers eclipsed the ones we saw at the peak of the market in June of 2022.

Even the Zillow Home Value Index, which is usually the most conservative measure of the popular home price indexes, is showing 3.2% positive home appreciation in 2023.

Why the Housing Market Will Continue to Surge

Housing inventory and new listing data are all rising, but the price cut percentages are falling. This is because there is still a shortage of sellers willing to list their homes, even though mortgage rates have fallen recently.

Zillow’s December 2023 Market Report, fewer new listings are hitting the market, which is typical for this time of year. Nationally, new listings fell 30.2% from November. There were fewer new listings than last December in all 30 of the 50 largest markets.

However, new listings are now up 2.1% compared to the year prior. A deficit of 14.5% compared to pre-pandemic norms is vastly improved from a trough of 35% in April.

The driving force behind the inventory shortage continues to be mortgage rates. Even though they have improved recently (more on that below), they remain much higher than pre-pandemic levels. The bond markets that determine mortgage rates are still reacting to recent Federal Reserve news that more hikes to the Fed Funds rate are likely coming in the near future, as well as economic data reports that show the economy is not slowing down as quickly as anticipated.

Mortgage Rates See Improvement As Inflation Outlook Improves

Housing inventory and mortgage rates are closely connected, as the record-low home inventory comes largely due to sellers feeling trapped by their low mortgage rates.

Rates have improved recently following the release of the December Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index – another closely watched economic indicator that measures changes in the prices of goods and services purchased by consumers in the United States.

While the public more closely follows the Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index (CPI), the Federal Reserve prefers the PCE because it adjusts for shifts in what consumers actually buy, while the CPI measures prices in the marketplace.

The latest PCE report showed that headline or all-in inflation rose o.17% for the month of December, which was close to the 0.2% expected. The year-over-year reading remains at 2.6%.

The core rate, which the Fed focuses on and strips out food and energy prices, rose 0.17% last month, which was also just beneath expectations. One year-over-year basis, the index fell from 3.2% to 2.9%.

According to MBS Highway, when you annualize the last 8 months, the core PCE reading is only at 2.08%, which is very close to the Fed’s target and something they must feel good about.

The markets are seeing this as a positive signal that inflation is moderating, which is helping mortgage rates.

Basically, we are on the right track to lower mortgage rates that actually stick. As rates drop, it will encourage some sellers who have been reluctant to sacrifice their low interest rates to be less wary of putting their homes on the market, which could help the inventory problem. However, increased home affordability will also bring more first-time homebuyers into the market who will not be adding to the number of homes for sale.

What This Means for You

Our advice remains the same: if you are ready to buy a home, schedule a meeting with a mortgage advisor to find out how much you can afford with the current market conditions.

If you can make the numbers work, we still believe the best strategy is to pull the trigger on buying a home you love sooner rather than later.  Your mortgage payment might be a bit higher than you would like initially, but you will be able to lock in your housing payment and immediately start building equity through appreciation. Rates will come down like they always do, and you will be able to refinance to a permanently lower housing expense.

If you’re ready to get started, we’d love to help you!