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.
Home prices are ticking lower as the end of year approaches. The low point of home prices each year is the second week of January. Will that be the case this year? Will be interesting to watch. That’ll be a real signal if home prices keep falling after January 15. As we’ve been saying it probably depends on where rates are at that moment. Rates have settled in the 6% range, but we’ve been observing that 5.5% is probably a significant threshold for affordability for American home buyers. We’ll keep watching all this data to report what happens next.
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I’m Mike Simonsen, I’m the founder of Altos Research. Here’s what the data looks like for the second week of December 2022.
Real Estate Inventory
Total available inventory of homes for sale right now in the US is 535,000 single family homes. That’s down 2.5% from last week. These weeks between Thanksgiving and the new year holiday are always when inventory falls most rapidly of course. This week’s decline was slightly more than our very conservative model had predicted, as some homes are selling, some are being withdrawn from the market, and there are very few new listings to add to supply. The decline in inventory is being accelerated by slightly lower mortgage rates than that absolute freeze out period in September and October when rates were above 7%. At the far right end of this chart you can see how inventory bumped up during that period and is now resuming a more normal seasonal down curve.
Unsold inventory of homes on the market is 58% higher than last year at this time when we were at record lows. We’re down 7% off this year’s peak in late October. So that’s starting to be significant. And we still have 36% fewer homes on the market than we did at this time in 2019. The difference between now and 2019 isn’t changing much at the moment. Staying 36% fewer. Which implies that we’re on the same seasonal trend as we were then pre-pandemic. One signal to watch after the new year is whether we keep closing the gap in homes for sale between now and the pre-pandemic normal levels. If rates move higher, buyers will cool again and inventory will climb.
Even though demand has cooled way down, supply continues to be incredibly restrained also. This week had fewer than 50,000 new single family listings, a handful of which sell immediately. Those new listings that sold immediately are the light portions of each bar in this chart. You can see at the far right a little rebound after the thanksgiving weekend, but it’s still 28% less new supply than the same week last year. Last year’s inventory was so low because Americans were still living in sub 3% mortgages and buying everything they could with the bargain they knew they had. That psychology is flipped on its head now with sellers holding back.
We have four more weeks of rapidly declining new listings and then the first upturn at the second week of January.
Next week will see a little rebound in listings, but it’s still trending lower through the end of the year.
Total pendings count is now 35% fewer than last year at this time. That’s the total number of homes in contract, no longer listed; they've taken offers but they’re not yet sold. This I think is the real story in the data right now. We can see how few new transactions are starting and how few are in the pipeline to complete. We have 5.7% fewer homes in contract than just last week.
These numbers always fall over the holidays, but you can see how we’re 35% fewer pendings now than last year at this time. This is the leading indicator for sales transactions that will close in January and February. It’s very slow.
The median price of single family homes in the US is marching lower each week as we’ve already covered and have been expecting. The median price is now $415,000. We have 4 more weeks of price declines until the second week of January. Should be right around $400k before prices turn up for the spring. Every year prices jump a little between the second and third week of January. Every year. It’s very reliable. So if you want to test your bearish hypothesis, watch that moment. There are homes preparing now to list after the holidays. Essentially always they come in, we have a little new listings spike and prices tick up too that week. If this year they don’t, that’d be a bearish signal for where buyers are or aren’t now.
And frankly, I could imagine a world where prices don’t jump this coming January. Price declines across the US have been seasonal this year but have declined more than normal in many of the bubbliest markets. So if enough buyers in Austin and Phoenix stay on the sidelines in January, maybe price declines continue to inch down. That’s why I say keep your eyes on that moment to test your bear market hypothesis.
The price of the new listings rebounded this week. Which is totally normal after Thanksgiving. And this is why I’m still expecting prices to tick up in January. This normal behavior here implies to me that the market isn’t so far out of whack that home prices would keep marching lower in Q1. Remember, to have negative price appreciation in 2023, we’d just have to have a less steep upslope in the first quarter. That’s what I’m expecting.
Home Price Reductions
Price reductions are also down this week trying to act with normal seasonality. Currently 42.1% of the homes on the market have had a price cut recently. No surprise that’s a lot more than recent years. You can see the dark red line here. Price reductions peaked with interest rates in November. They moved higher in September with rates too. This is a really useful signal for buyer demand. Rates spike, no bidders, I have to cut my price. Rates ease, some sale happen maybe I’ll hold off on the price cut. We’ll probably end the year with about 40% with price reductions. This eases lower in the first quarter because new inventory comes on, is good quality and is priced right for today’s expectations. Unless mortgage rates spike higher, then we’ll see demand cool and price reductions ratchet up as well.
This is of course national data and the 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 book a consult with our team to learn how to interpret this crazy market 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!