LOS ANGELES - It feels like a never-ending uphill battle for many homebuyers across the United States.
"My experience with looking for a house has been frustrating," one Georgia resident told FOX Television Stations Group. "I have been texting my agent day and night to squeeze in a showing only for the house to go before I could even go see it."
The woman, who desires a home in Atlanta, revealed, not too long ago, she put in an offer on a house above the asking price only to discover the seller went with someone else's offer who paid $200,000 over the asking price with no contingencies.
"At this point, instead of being able to take my time to find a house that I truly like, I have resorted to finding one that is good enough because that’s all I can afford," she added.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg for first-time homebuyers and likely not the first story you’ve heard, especially lately: tight inventory, multiple offers on rundown properties, houses selling for well over the asking price (sometimes by hundreds of thousands of dollars) and home renovations taking substantially longer than predicted due to low supply on flooring, cabinets, and, well, literally everything.
"COVID has flipped our life upside-down, disturbed many aspects of everyday life, but the housing market [had] exceptional performance," Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), told FOX Television Stations. "We have never seen two consecutive years of such high performance, prices rising, double-digit appreciation — so quite the spectacular performance in the housing."
And most agents across the nation agree.
"After an initial lull in 2020, the market has been red hot and getting hotter," said Ron Melendez, a senior agent in Los Angeles with Compass’s The Stephanie Younger Group.
In late 2020 and 2021, the housing market sizzled across the nation, with annual existing-home sales hitting their highest mark since 2006, according to the NAR.
But, what does this mean for 2022? Will the housing market put its foot on the brake (rather than the gas), and provide that desired reprieve for future home buyers?
Will the housing market slow down in 2022?
If you’re a prospective first-time homebuyer hoping (or praying) home prices will decline in 2022, most experts agree: don’t count on it.
"If people are waiting for a price to decline, well, it’s not going to happen," Yun continued, predicting healthy price gains in 2022 between 4 to 6%.
A sold sign is seen in front of a recently purchased home December 28, 2006 in San Francisco. (Credit: Justin Sullivan via Getty Images)
A sold sign is seen in front of a recently purchased home December 28, 2006 in San Francisco. (Credit: Justin Sullivan via Getty Images)
But, Yun noted the double-digit price gains and intense multiple-offer situations experienced in 2020 and 2021 will likely be a thing of the past.
"The momentum will slow down a bit," Yun said, adding, "I actually expect home sales to come down maybe three percent from last year — so fewer transactions — but at the same time we will not have that double-digit explosive price growth which we experienced."
In a report released last Thursday, Fannie Mae’s Economic and Strategic Research group said it expects housing activity to moderate from 2021’s highs. The group predicts single-family home sales to decline 2.4% in 2022 – a slightly steeper drop than the previously anticipated 1.2% dip – due to constraints associated with rising mortgage rates.
The ESR Group currently projects home price growth of 7.6% in 2022, down from last year’s record-setting 17.3%.
A "for sale" sign in front of a home that Zillow shows has a pending sale of 750,000 dollars on February 18, 2022 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
But some real estate agents are skeptical, saying their market has shown no signs of cooling off (especially in triple-digit weather).
"We have to level out before we even see light and I doubt that happens this year," Lloyd Fox, a broker and owner of Long Realty’s The FOX Group in Scottsdale, Arizona, predicted. "The demand is just too high for things to cool off."
Eric Jurmo, a Detroit agent and owner at Keller William’s Eric Team, echoed a similar sentiment, "I don't think we will see the inventory shortage change this year. I expect with interest rates going up the market to soften more next year."
In California, the outlook isn’t much different.
"There doesn't look to be a reprieve anytime soon," Melendez added. "My prediction is that the market will begin to level off toward the end of the year with the combination of rising values and rising interest rates. The fall may see slightly more balance between buyers and sellers, but with continued low inventory and still strong demand."
Economic growth remains strong
Job growth in the United States blew past expectations in January, as the economy brushed off a record-breaking surge in COVID-19 cases nationwide.
The Labor Department said in its monthly payroll report released earlier this month that payrolls in January rose by 467,000, easily topping the 150,000 jobs gain forecast by Refinitiv economists. The unemployment rate, which is calculated based on a separate survey, ticked up slightly to 4%.
According to Sam Khater, the chief economist and head of Freddie Mac's Economic and Housing Research division, economic growth is on an upward trajectory, but inflation remains a prominent concern.
"Economic growth remains strong as of February, with strong gains in employment and consumer spending. However, the continued rise in inflation that is broadening beyond supply-constrained segments is a major concern," Khater told FOX. "This is already impacting consumer sentiment, which has markedly declined due to the increase in inflation."
This means if inflation continues to rise, Khater said it will make economic growth more difficult, as rising inflation constrains consumer cash flows and budgets.
"Moreover, the Federal Reserve will be forced to more aggressively raise short-term rates which can lead to a slowdown in the cyclical segments of the economy," Khater continued, adding, "While longer-term that will help mitigate inflationary pressures, in the short-term the combination of rising inflation and rising interest rates will lead to continued sagging consumer sentiment, which influences their economic decisions."
Will home mortgage rates continue rising in 2022?
Yun predicts the U.S. will "definitely" see higher mortgage rates, but notes there should be no reason to be alarmed.
"Maybe we will reach something closer to four percent average rate on the mortgages by year-end, from three percent of last year. It is an increase, but it’s not a drastic increase," Yun explained.
Even so, "3.5% is still a ridiculous rate you’ll probably never see again," Fox noted of current interest rates.
The Federal Reserve signaled in January that it would begin raising its benchmark interest rate — and probably a few additional times this year — and this means consumers and businesses will eventually feel it.
With inflation at its highest level in four decades, the Federal Reserve is expected to enact a more aggressive course of monetary policy tightening than previously forecast, with a 50-basis-point increase to the federal funds rate in March now predicted to be the first in a series of interest rate hikes through 2023, according to the ESR Group.
By making home mortgage loans gradually costlier, the Fed hopes to stem the surging price increases that have been squeezing consumers and businesses.
"Heading into the spring of 2022, mortgage rates have increased over a full percentage point and while purchase demand has cooled, it remains firm," Khater continued. "Supply remains near record lows, so home price growth is expected to remain high through the spring homebuying season before cooling off later this year as mortgage rates continue to rise."
While experts say rising mortgage rates should help slow the growth in home prices, the higher rates will also make home-owning even less affordable for those taking out a loan.
Yet, this won’t affect anyone paying cash — another dilemma homebuyers currently face, as they compete with all-cash buyers.
"This is the struggle of so many people competing with cash buyers and people with large resources," Fox noted. "It’s a struggle for first-time buyers and people with average means to get a home and not give up too many protections like appraisals and home inspections. There is zero time to make decisions or the decision is made for you by someone more decisive."
Atlanta’s future resident agrees.
"I have been looking at houses within 500K to 700K but there are buyers offering all cash or offering to pay 100K over the purchase price and that is something that not most people can afford to do. So, that has been a struggle for me and I’m sure many others," the Georgia resident explained. "The market is crazy right now, but from what I have been hearing and reading it will only get crazier so it feels like a never-ending uphill battle."
Could US see another housing market crash in 2022?
While interest rates were incredibly low during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising mortgage rates indicate the U.S. will likely not see a sudden housing crash or housing bubble in 2022.
On December 30, 2008, the Case-Shiller home price index reported its largest price drop in its history. The credit crisis, resulting from the bursting of the housing bubble, was a cause of the Great Recession in the U.S.
"Back then, easy, risky mortgages [were] widely prevalent," Yun said of the housing crash in 2008, noting the large access of mortgages to people who didn’t qualify.
This time around, he said it’s different. People who are obtaining mortgages are generally those with high-quality credit.
And that’s not the only dynamic at play.
At the height of the bubble in 2006, Yun said builders were constructing and building too many houses, and in return, this led to an oversupply of homes on the market.
But with record-low inventory sweeping cities in 2022, oversupply is certainly not an issue this time.
"Inventory is terrible. There really is nowhere near enough to meet the very high demand. We are seeing between 10-20 and more buyers for every home, driving prices up on a weekly basis," Melendez added.
In the Detroit metropolitan area, it’s not any different. Jurmo revealed inventory in the area is currently at an all-time low.
"We have experienced decreased inventory which has driven up sales prices dramatically. Some areas have seen prices rise from 15 to 30 percent in the last year," he continued.
Californians move to Arizona, other states for affordable housing
The exodus out of California, New York and similarly expensive housing markets due to the development of work-from-home flexibility for employees is also impacting housing in what are or once were affordable cities.
According to the NAR, states surrounding California including Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Oregon and Washington State are outperforming California in the housing market, principally because Californians are moving there seeking better affordability or able to due to increasing work-from-home options.
But, in return, this is another factor impacting home prices elsewhere.
"It’s been dramatic and everything looks like it’s on sale to CA money," Fox said of Californians moving into the Phoenix real estate market. "The prices have soared with silly bids. People are winning and paying at a clip of 50-100k over the next person in some instances. Carelessness in this sense has pressed some communities into questioning values but January 2022 saw another two percent jump in the Median price for a single-family home."
Melendez said he is noticing this trend in California, adding "Arizona, Colorado, Tennessee and Texas are all popular destinations where California transplants can flex their economic muscle, and we are hearing how hard that makes things for the local buying population."
Construction and building may increase during 2022
So, where is the silver lining in all of this? Aside from a growing economy, it may come down to increased construction.
While drastically low inventory continues to be an issue many housing markets face, experts say builders are increasingly becoming more active, which may mean more supply and construction later in 2022.
December census data showed the number of housing starts jumped in November. The rate of new construction was nearly 12% above October’s revised rate.
Meanwhile, January’s data showed privately-owned housing starts in January were 4.1% below the revised December estimate, but was 0.8% above the January 2021 rate of 1,625,000.
"We are seeing a lot of new home starts and new subdivisions being developed. Most are in the farther suburbs," Jurmo added of its construction uptick in Michigan.
In return, Yun said increased construction could move the U.S. housing market towards a more balanced condition.
"We are seeing that builders are building more," Yun added, noting the additional rise in some commercial real estate buildings.
But with the nation’s ongoing strain of the supply chain, which has caused issues including significant delays for building materials, even builders are getting burnt out.
"I think unreasonable build times and resources have further fueled the strain on inventory and competition," Fox added.
"In the beach communities of Los Angeles, there just isn't enough room to build. And the big projects and communities in the wider SoCal area are selling out every phase in bidding wars, which you never saw in new construction. They quite simply can't build enough homes fast enough to make a big difference," Melendez continued.
Furthermore, these added expenses from shortages and delays are being passed on to homebuyers, leaving an even larger burden for the first-time homebuyer.
Advice for 1st time home buyers
"There are winners and losers. The winners were people who are already owners, who had purchased during the COVID period," Yun said.
While I won’t dare call prospective homebuyers "losers," if you are someone who desires to purchase a home this year, and in this climate, experts and agents say you better be ready for the competition involved.
"If you want to buy, it is totally possible, but you will be pushed out of your comfort zone, so have a plan in place with an agent you trust," Melendez said.
Fox’s sentiment is much of the same, "If you’re thinking about selling then you better d**m well know your next move and be ready to compete."
He suggests making sure your locked-in interest rate is 3.5% or lower. He noted you may consider opening a credit line at today’s low rates as a rainy day option to keep open.
In addition, Yun said home buyers, who are getting priced out, may also want to widen their geographic search where homes may be more affordable and more construction may be occurring.
While mortgage rates will continue to rise, these rates are not predicted to increase considerably, so it may be worth it to wait until there is more supply or choices available later in the year or next.
Yet, be aware, waiting longer also equates to higher prices as home values continue to increase.
"Do everything you can to put yourself in the position to make the strongest offer now. You might not be able to afford the same area by the end of the year," Jurmo concluded.
Melendez added: "This market requires the right mindset and trust that what feels like an exorbitant price now will look like a bargain in a month. It is starting to feel like buyers are tapping out, unwilling to play the game anymore."
Only time can ultimately tell what will happen, but one thing is certain: homebuyer fatigue is settling in.
"Given how fast the market has shifted the last two years, there’s probably a fair amount of homebuyer fatigue that will set in later this year, so any news of a slowdown in activity back to more normal levels would be welcome by consumers," Khater concluded.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.