Mike Simonsen is the founder and president of real estate analytics firm Altos Research, which has provided national and local real estate data to financial institutions, real estate professionals, and investors across the country for more than 15 years. An expert trendspotter, Mike uses Altos data to identify market shifts months before they hit the headlines.
This week, new pending home sales prices are at a new high for the year, and just fractionally below last year at this time. This is a remarkable development given how dramatically home buyer demand slowed last year, and even though mortgage payments are so much higher than they were just 18 months ago.
Could a home price crash still be on its way? Of course it could. In September last year mortgage rates spiked up to 7.5% and housing demand stopped cold. Inventory rose and prices corrected down. That could happen again, and it’s why we watch the data so closely each week.
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I’m Mike Simonsen, I’m the founder of Altos Research. Let’s look at the data for the first week of July 2023.
There are now 465,000 single family homes active unsold on the market across the US. That’s down a fraction due to the Independence Day holiday last week. It’s quite common in most years for inventory to dip a little over the holiday with fewer sellers listing that week. Last year was the exception. Last year inventory kept rising, almost 4% over the holiday week. Compare on this chart the dark red line for this year’s inventory curve vs the light red line from last year.
Mortgage rates are persistently above 7% now and the economy continues to surprise how strong it is and how strong employment is, so rates haven’t slid back down like many analysts predicted they would earlier in the year. We have inflation reports this week, and if inflation continues to cool maybe we get lucky on mortgage rates too.
But as of now the higher rates I expect to slow demand some this month. So after the holiday transition completes, expect the market to resume inventory building. If you’re a buyer who started looking last month, suddenly your payments are worse and you are more likely to hold off making an offer to wait and see if rates drop again. Fewer offers means inventory rises.
I’ve mentioned before that it’s almost like we can see home buyers more sensitive to the changes in rates than to the absolute level of the rates themselves. So the change from 7 to 7.5% would be really shocking. Last year in September we could measure an immediate spike in the inventory on the market when that happened. That’s very unusual to have inventory building that late in the year.
July 4th week last year was the moment when transaction volume began to fall precipitously. Transaction volume fell again in September with the second mortgage rates spike of the year. As the sales rate recovered somewhat this year, we now have just 9% fewer homes in contract than we did last year at this time. Remember we started 2023 with 35% fewer homes in contract.
In this chart the height of each bar is the total count of homes in contract. You can see last year a big dip over the holiday to 420,000 single family homes that were in contract last year. The week was the start of the steep decline in transaction volume in the second half of the year.
The light portion of the bar is the new pendings each week. There are now 381,000 single family homes in the contract stage, with 74,000 new contracts this week. That is by our count the most new sales in any week of this year. It’s 8% fewer than last year. So we’re still closing the gap with the sales rate from last year. And so far, even at 7% mortgage rates that sales trend is holding up. And the comparison gets easier every week from here on out. Last year the sales rate dropped dramatically each week.
You can see another dip in the sales volume in September last year exactly when mortgage rates jumped to 7.5%. This is where we’ll want to keep our focus since rates are persistently above 7% currently. If mortgage rates go up from here, you’ll see the impact very quickly in this pending sales data. We might lose ground again. We’ll keep this chart updated in the coming weeks to see what we learn about how home buyers react to the latest surge in mortgage rates.
Price reductions are doing their seasonal climb. Homes that have been on the market and not get their offers start to cut prices later in the summer. If demand weakens here there will be slightly fewer offers, and slightly more price cuts. I’ll be really interested to see what happens in the next two weeks with price cuts. Right now 32.5% of the homes on the market have taken a price cut. There’s been more demand than the quantity of homes available so relatively few sellers have had to cut prices. But that can change quickly. Home buyers are very sensitive to changes in affordability. And sellers will see it quickly. You can see the trajectory of the dark red line here. That’s the curve of price reductions for the year.
Last year’s curve was climbing so quickly. That’s how you measure demand cooling. Demand has been accelerating this year. At least for the few available homes. You can see that there are buyers at these home prices and at these mortgage rates. Keep your eyes here especially if rates climb again.
The median home price in the US is $452,490 this week. That’s half a percent lower than last week. And also half a percent lower than a year ago. It’s very common for the last week of June to be the peak of home asking prices and it looks like this year is no exception.
Home prices are flat year over year and there’s no indication anywhere in the data yet that home prices are falling from here. I’ve been highlighting in this video all the places where we can see home buyer demand be sensitive to affordability changes. But as of right now demand has been sufficient to keep home prices supported.
Both the median price of all the homes on the market and the median price of those new listings this week are slightly below last year at this time. The median price of the new listings is $400k now. The new listings that come on the market over the holidays always have a little discount. And generally the price of the new listings declines in the second half of the year. Last year’s price decline in the light red line was particularly steep so there’s a good chance that list prices will be up over last year some time in July and finish 2023 with positive home price appreciation over 2022. At the beginning of the year I would have guessed that was very unlikely, but here we are.
In fact if we look at the prices of the homes that people are buying, we can see the median price of the newly pending sales is up again this week and homes are going into contract at higher prices than those last year. That’s very consistent now, several weeks in a row. And frankly the annual price comparisons get another huge boost in September.
This chart is the median price of the newly pending home sales each week. The dark red line is this year. The median price of those new pendings is $390,000 this week. That’s the highest sales price of the year. And just a tiny bit below the record sales price set a year ago in June. The light red line is last year. You can see home sales prices took a drop in June and again in September last year.
No matter where you look in the data home prices are flat from 2022. The trends are showing moderate price strength, especially compared with last fall. That means that home buyers are buying at these prices and these mortgage rates. But we also know that mortgage rates have jumped over 7% because the economy has been so strong. What if mortgage rates go to 8%? Well we should see it quickly in the price reductions, in the inventory count, and in the sales prices.
This is of course national data, and local markets are behaving very differently from each other right now. If you need to get your local data to your buyers and sellers right now, you should join us at Altos Research. Go to AltosResearch.com and book time with our team to learn how to interpret the market signals for the people who need it most right now. They need you to be the expert for them.
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See you next week!