Market Snapshot: What’s Ahead for Real Estate

The U.S. unemployment rate is at a 50-year low, and consumer confidence remains high. In fact, the University of Michigan’s latest Surveys of Consumers found that Americans have their most positive personal finance outlook since 2003.1

However, if you follow national news, you’ve probably heard speculation that we could be headed toward a recession. Global trade tensions and a slow down in the GDP growth rate has sparked volatility in the stock market, leading to economic uncertainty.

Given these differing signals, you may be wondering: How has U.S. and housing market been impacted? Where is it headed? And more importantly … what does it mean for me?

 

MORTGAGE RATES ARE NEAR HISTORIC LOWS

In August, Freddie Mac reported that the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate hit its lowest level since November 2016, falling to 3.6%, down a full percentage point from a year earlier.Variable mortgage rates also fell when the Federal Reserve cut interest rates at the end of July for the first time since 2008.3

This was welcome news for many in the real estate industry. Freddie Mac predicts that low interest rates and a robust job market will help the housing market remain strong despite the threat of recession.

“There is a tug of war in the financial markets between weaker business sentiment and consumer sentiment,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Business sentiment is declining on negative trade and manufacturing headlines, but consumer sentiment remains buoyed by a strong labor market and low rates that will continue to drive home sales into the fall.”2

 

What does it mean for you?

If you’re looking to buy a home, now is a great time to lock in a low mortgage rate. It will shrink your monthly payment and could save you a bundle over the long term. Or if you plan to stay in your current home for a while, consider whether it makes sense to refinance your mortgage at today’s lower rates.

 

PRICES CONTINUE TO RISE AT A MODEST PACE

According to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices, housing prices continue to rise. But the rate at which prices are rising is slowing down. For May 2019, the National Home Price Index rose by 3.4%, down from 3.5% the previous month.4

Of course, national averages often don’t present the whole picture. Some markets have seen modest declines, while other areas are witnessing double-digit increases. The key differentiating factor in most cases? Housing affordability.5

Since 2012, home prices have increased at about three times the pace of wages, according to National Association of Realtors chief economist Lawrence Yun.6

“Housing unaffordability will hinder sales irrespective of the local job market conditions,” said Yun. “This is evident in the very expensive markets as home prices are either topping off or slightly falling.”5

But what about all this talk of a recession? Will we see housing values plummet like they did in 2008? Economists say no.

If we look at history, the real estate crash experienced during the Great Recession isn’t typical.

The recent Housing and Mortgage Market Review report from Arch Mortgage Insurance provides data to support this. “What we found is that the next recession is likely to be far less severe on the housing market than the last one. It’s not that this time is different; it’s that last time was really different from historic norms.”6

“A large decline in national home prices is unlikely in the next recession,” Arch economists write. “A persistent housing shortage should help cushion home price declines.”6

 

What does it mean for you?

If you have the ability and desire to buy a home now, don’t let the threat of a recession hold you in limbo. The market is cyclical, and it will experience ups and downs. But over the long term, real estate has consistently proven to be a good investment.

 

STARTER INVENTORY REMAINS TIGHT WHILE LUXURY MARKET SOFTENS

As we’ve seen in the past, it’s become a tale of two sectors.

The low-end of the market remains highly competitive as buyers compete for affordable housing. A lack of new construction during the last recession led to an undersupply of starter homes. This trend continues—despite growing demand—due to a lack of skilled workers, rising land and material costs, and a slow permitting process in many areas.7

The result? There’s a shortage of homes for sale that Americans can actually afford to buy.

The luxury market, on the other hand, has softened. Economic uncertainty, changes to tax laws, and rising prices have slowed demand. Plus, to recoup their higher costs, builders flocked to this segment—causing an overabundance of supply in some areas.

“If you’re selling an entry level home, you’re probably still looking at a pretty competitive market in most places,” according to Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com. “But if you’re selling a more expensive home you probably have to adjust your expectations.”8

 

What does it mean for you?

Move-up buyers, you’re in luck! If you’re ready to trade in your starter home for something more luxurious, you may get the best of both sectors. We’re still witnessing strong demand for entry-level homes, giving sellers the upper hand. At the same time, buyers of high-end homes are finding a greater selection (and more negotiating power) than they’ve had in years.

 

INVESTORS ARE BUYING HOMES AT RECORD LEVELS

There’s one group that hasn’t been slowed down by lack of affordability or economic uncertainty: investors.

According to CoreLogic, investors are purchasing homes at a record pace. In 2018, the share of U.S. homes bought by investors reached 11.3%—the highest level since the company began tracking nearly 20 years ago.9

Notably, this increased activity wasn’t led by institutional investors, but instead by small and individual investors focused on the starter-home segment.Declining interest rates and an uncertain stock market has led investors to flock to real estate as they seek out greater stability and higher returns.

“With declining mortgage rates … they’re searching for a better return for their money,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun.10

 

What does it mean for you?

If you’re looking for a way to “recession proof” your money, you might want to consider investing in real estate. People will always need a place to live, and (unlike the stock market) a rental property can provide a steady source of cash flow during uncertain economic times.

 

 

Austin-Round Rock MSA

In the Austin-Round Rock MSA, single-family home sales in August increased 5.8% to 3,189 home sales, and sales volume increased 7.8% to $1,289,691,264. The median price for single-family homes slightly increased by 2% to $326,500. During the same period, new listings decreased 7.1% to 3,457 listings; active listings decreased 9.3% to 7,074 listings; but pending sales jumped 19% to 3,114 pending sales. Monthly housing inventory declined 0.3 months year over year to 2.7 months of inventory.

 

City of Austin

In Austin proper, the city of Austin single-family home sales increased 3.3% this August to 936 sales in the city of Austin. During the same period, sales dollar volume increased 7.1% to $479,729,986, and the median price for single-family homes rose 2.7% year over year to $400,500. New listings decreased 10.3% to 947 listings; active listings dropped 19% to 1,418 listings; but pending sales jumped 15.2% to 894 pending sales. Monthly housing inventory decreased 0.4 months year over year to 1.8 months of inventory.

What does it mean for you?

The imbalance between supply and demand––which continues to drive up the cost of homes in Austin––will persist beyond this summer’s sales activity. This means if your thinking about selling, with low inventory and increasing sales now is the time to finally realize the equity gains.

If your needing to buy in the greater Austin area, looking to the outskirts might be more advantageous with a median home price of $326K vs $400K (in the city) and historically low interest rates at under 4% and many new build opportunities there is plenty more affordable options as the growth continues.

 

 HERE TO GUIDE YOU

While national real estate numbers can provide a “big picture” outlook, real estate is local. As local market experts, we can guide you through the ins and outs of our market and the issues most likely to impact sales and home values in your particular neighborhood.

If you have specific questions or would like more information about how market changes could affect you, contact me to schedule a free consultation. I’m here to help you navigate this shifting real estate landscape.

August Statistics for Hays, Bastrop, Travis, Caldwell and Williamson Counties cont….

 

Travis County

In Travis County, August home sales increased by 4.3% to 1,526 sales, and sales dollar volume increased 5.9% to $741,835,279. The median price for a single-family home increased 2.4% to $380,000. During the same period, new listings decreased 4.5% to 1,677 listings; active listings decreased 11.1% to 3,162 listings; and pending sales spiked 16.1% to 1,475 pending sales. Monthly housing inventory dropped 0.4 months to 2.4 months of inventory.

 

Williamson County

Williamson County single-family home sales volume increased 8.3% to 1,137 sales and sales dollar volume increased 10.2% to $369,226,617. The median price for a single-family home remained at $295,000, the same as August 2018. New listings decreased 13.6% to 1,188 listings and active listings decreased 13.7% to 2,375 listings. At the same time, pending sales experienced a double-digit increase of 22.2% to 1,128 pending sales. Housing inventory decreased 0.5 months to 2.5 months of inventory.

 

Hays County

In Hays County, single-family home sales increased 4.7% to 376 sales in August and sales dollar volume rose 10.2% to $137,516,912. During the same period, the median price for single-family homes decreased 6.9% to $270,000. New listings increased 6.7% to 431 listings; active listings increased 2.5% to 1,058 listings; and pending sales increased 17.7% to 360 pending sales. Housing inventory decreased 0.1 months year over year to 3.4 months of inventory.

 

Bastrop County

In August, Bastrop County single-family home sales jumped 15.7% to 118 sales and sales dollar volume increased 12.1% to $31,352,458. The median price for a single-family home remained unchanged at $240,000. During the same period, new listings decreased 15.3% to 122 listings; active listings increased 2.5% to 373 listings; and pending sales rose 31.4% to 113 pending sales. Housing inventory decreased 0.3 months to 4.0 months of inventory.

Caldwell County

In Caldwell County, August single-family home sales dropped 18% to 32 sales and sales dollar volume increased 28.1% to $9,909,024. The median home price increased 11% year over year to $216,500. During the same period, new listings decreased 4.9% to 39 listings as active listings increased 7.1% to 106 listings. Pending sales rose 18.8% to 38 pending sales. Housing inventory increased 0.3 months to 4.2 months of inventory.

Sources:

  1. University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers – http://www.sca.isr.umich.edu/
  2. Freddie Mac – https://freddiemac.gcs-web.com/news-releases/news-release-details/mortgage-rates-drop-significantly?_ga=2.29332539.689041222.1565464527-928629548.1565464527
  3. CNN – https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/31/business/fed-rate-cut-july-meeting/index.html
  4. S&P Dow Jones Indices – https://us.spindices.com/documents/indexnews/announcements/20190730-965771/965771_cshomeprice-release-0730.pdf?force_download=true
  5. National Association of Realtors – https://www.nar.realtor/newsroom/metro-home-prices-increase-in-91-of-metro-areas-in-second-quarter-of-2019
  6. Forbes – https://www.forbes.com/sites/alyyale/2019/04/18/with-a-recession-looming-is-now-the-time-to-sell-your-home/#7d3a21665bce
  7. CNN – https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/09/economy/mortgages-home-buyers/index.html
  8. Forbes – https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinefeeney/2019/07/01/halfway-into-2019-how-is-the-housing-market-holding-up/#7e656e3ec5d8
  9. CoreLogic – https://www.corelogic.com/blog/2019/06/special-report-investor-home-buying.aspx
  10. Fox Business – https://www.foxbusiness.com/economy/investors-snapping-up-homes-at-record-levels
  11. Austin Board or Realtors – https://www.abor.com/statsaug19/