Spring is here. Finally, after a long, cloudy and wet winter we have had a couple sunny days, the bluebonnets are starting to boom, allergies are on high alert, and the Spring buying season is starting. To help you prepare, here is a snapshot of the housing market forecast.

Freddie Mac recently reported, “Mortgage interest rates have been steadily declining since the start of 2019. These lower mortgage interest rates combined with a strong labor market should attract prospective homebuyers this spring and could help the housing sector regain its momentum later in the year.” This is great news as we approach our typical Homebuying Season.

Mortgage interest rates continue to decline

According to Primary Mortgage Market Weekly Survey mortgage rates have steadily declined after reaching a high of 4.94 percent in November of 2018. As of late-March, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 4.28 percent, its lowest level since February 2018.

Home sales to slowly regain momentum

Existing home sales nationally fell by 7 percent, to 5.32 million homes, in November compared with November 2017, according to the National Assoc­iation of Realtors. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, expects sales to be flat in 2019. This spring will be the best measure of whether the housing market is returning from very tight to normal, Yun says.

Freddie Mac reports, “existing home sales slumped to start the year, likely in part due to exceptionally cold weather in January and the temporary effects of the government shutdown. With mortgage rates down significantly from last fall, we expect to see existing home sales bounce back and trend higher for the rest of the year. However, our forecast indicates that total home sales (new and existing) will remain down at 5.94 million in 2019 since home sales are starting the year at such a slow rate, before increasing to 6.14 million in 2020.”

However, home sales for the Austin MSA increased 1.5 percent for 2018 vs 2017. Median home price increased 3.7 percent to $305,900. 

Housing starts
Freddie Mac reports, “Housing starts averaged 1.25 million in 2018. Due to the recent increases in building permits, we anticipate that total housing starts will gradually increase over the next two years with most of the growth coming from single-family housing starts. We forecast that total housing starts will increase to 1.27 million units in 2019 and to 1.33 million units in 2020.”

According to Moody’s Analytics, “homebuilders have been underbuilding for more than a decade. Builders have been hindered by labor shortages, community opposition to high-density projects and growing costs of land, labor and materials. Plus, they’ve been building at the mid-to-high end of the market, not at the entry level. But it’s not all bad news. Builders are offering in­centives to buyers, and they’re slowly starting to build smaller, lower-price homes that are more affordable.”

Locally, Austin single family building permits increased 4.6 percent in 2018 over the previous year. 

Home equity

CoreLogic Homeowner Equity Insights 4th Quarter Report continues to see a rise in home equity. “U.S. homeowners with mortgages (roughly 63 percent of all properties*) have seen their equity increase by a total of nearly $678.4 billion since the fourth quarter 2017, an increase of 8.1 percent, year over year.”

A look at home prices

Home prices started to soften in mid-2018. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance recently reported, “Prices will continue rising, but more slowly, as the housing market regains some balance between buyers and sellers.”

Freddie Mac similarly reports, “After accelerating in recent years, home price growth in the United States has continued to moderate. In line with recent trends, we have lowered our home price growth forecasts to annual increases of 3.5 percent and 2.5 percent in 2019 and 2020, respectively.”

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SOURCES:

Freddie Mac – http://www.freddiemac.com/research/forecast/20190322_economic_growth.page?

Freddie Mac – http://www.freddiemac.com/pmms/

National Association of Realtors – https://www.nar.realtor/

Real Estate Center Texas A&M University – https://www.recenter.tamu.edu/data/housing-activity/#!/activity/MSA/Austin-Round_Rock

Moody’s Analytics – https://www.moodysanalytics.com/

Real Estate Center Texas A&M University – https://www.recenter.tamu.edu/data/building-permits/#!/msa/Austin-Round_Rock%2C_TX 

CoreLogic – https://www.corelogic.com/insights-download/homeowner-equity-report.aspx

Homeownership mortgage source: 2016 American Community Survey – https://www.census.gov/acs/www/data/data-tables-and-tools/data-profiles/2016/

MReport – https://themreport.com/daily-dose/03-25-2019/important-drivers-home-sales

Kiplinger – https://www.kiplinger.com/article/real-estate/T010-C000-S002-where-home-prices-are-headed-2019.html