A Home for Everyone? Zillow's Real Estate Update Reveals Clue
Are you ready to take a deep dive into the latest trends and insights shaping the housing market today?
In this article, we'll guide you through ten real estate market graphs from Zillow that offer a comprehensive understanding of the current landscape. From changing home values to shifting demand activity, we'll reveal the key factors driving the market and explore how they could impact your buying or selling decisions.
Join us on this exclusive journey and gain valuable insights into the real estate landscape, presented in a detailed and easy-to-understand format. Let's begin our exploration!
Holistic Approach Required To Understand Housing
To truly understand the current housing market, relying on a single metric can be misleading and inaccurate. While metrics such as home prices or inventory levels can provide a general idea of market performance, they only paint a small picture of the complex and multifaceted housing market.
For example, if home prices are rising, it doesn't necessarily mean the market is healthy or an ideal time to buy or sell. Instead, a price increase could be due to a lack of inventory, low-interest rates, or high demand in specific areas. It could also indicate a speculative bubble that could burst at any moment.
On the other hand, metrics such as housing starts, building permits, mortgage delinquency rates, and foreclosure rates can provide valuable insight into the market. Examining multiple metrics is crucial to gaining a comprehensive understanding of the housing market's trends, challenges, and opportunities.
For instance, if housing starts and building permits are decreasing while prices are increasing, it could signify a potential shortage of housing supply in the future. Similarly, rising mortgage delinquency rates and foreclosure rates could indicate financial stress among homeowners and potential risks for the overall market.
Therefore, understanding the housing market requires a holistic approach that considers various metrics and data points. By doing so, you can gain a more accurate and nuanced understanding of the market, which can guide your decisions as a homeowner, homebuyer, or real estate investor.
In this report, we'll examine ten key metrics that Zillow tracks to deliver a comprehensive update on the housing market's current state. By exploring these metrics, we'll gain valuable insights that can help us make informed decisions about the housing market's trends and future direction.
Demand Continues To Fall
You have probably heard about the decreasing number of homes sold each month in the real estate market. To better understand this trend, Zillow has provided a graph displaying its estimated number of unique properties sold per month. The graph depicts an 18-month trend, providing insight into the current state of the real estate market.
In this graph, Zillow reveals home sales in the US have been declining for the past eighteen months up to February 2023. Year-over-year sales are a crucial metric in understanding market trends, as they remove the influence of seasonality by comparing the same months each year. For instance, February 2023 saw 31% fewer homes sold than February 2022.
It's essential to note that this graph only contains data since 2009, and the peak of home sales during that period is significantly lower than the number of homes sold during the housing bubble from 2004 to 2006. This reminds us that recent years were not marked by the irrational exuberance of overhyped new investors that artificially propped up the market more than fifteen years ago.
So you might wonder why home sales have declined for eighteen months. In this article, we will examine the possible reasons behind this trend and what it could mean for the future of the real estate market.
Mortgage Interest Rates And The Demand For Homes
This graph displays the average 30-year fixed mortgage interest rate dating back to 1971. The most recent months on the graph can explain one of the reasons for the recent decline in home sales.
In mid-March, the Mortgage News Daily website reported that the average 30-year fixed mortgage interest rate was 6.5%, a 46% increase from the rate one year ago at 4.5%.
While there has been a large increase in the rates charged to homebuyers, nearly a year has passed since rates exploded higher, so many buyers in the market have adjusted. With rates still 14% lower than the historical average, I'm not concerned about buyers adjusting to current rates (so long as they do not move too much higher).
Many reports blame the decline in home sales solely on higher mortgage interest rates, but that story does not pass muster, and here’s why:
Home sales started plummeting months before rates hit 3.3%. They started to slide when mortgage interest rates were at record lows, so we cannot solely blame the current housing market woes on mortgage interest rates. In fact, home sales fell for six consecutive months where mortgage interest rates were below 4%, so there has to be more to declining home sales than just an increase in mortgage interest rates.
The upcoming graphs will uncover other significant reasons behind the decrease in home sales and may provide an explanation for the stability of home prices. However, it is essential to note that no single metric can fully explain future trends in the housing market. We need to consider various data points to have a more comprehensive understanding.
The Inventory Of Homes For Sale
The inventory report has unveiled a stark difference between the current real estate market and that of the past. To be clear, today’s market is very different than the one in 2006 that led to the housing bubble. Unlike the situation in 2006, when the inventory of homes for sale was rising rapidly, there has been a notable decline in the number of unique property listings available each month since the beginning of 2019.
This graph plots the number of homes available each month, shown in blue, and the year-over-year inventory change, represented by the red line. The point where the red line intersects with the dashed-blue line in July 2019 and July 2022 indicates the market's shift from inventory growth to inventory reduction and back to growth.
Although there has been concern by some of a significant increase in inventory, the 17% rise in listings is nothing compared to the over four million listings during the housing bubble years. Today, we have well below 850,000 homes listed, 79% fewer than fifteen years ago.
Reports anticipating the inventory to rise as home sales decline overlook the source of new listings. With new construction inventory significantly lower than historical norms, we must rely on discretionary sellers to meet our inventory needs.
However, most discretionary sellers are also discretionary buyers. When a buyer cannot afford a home and leaves the market, a discretionary seller also leaves. Over 50% of the time, a buyer leaving the market also leads to a seller leaving the market. As move-up and move-down buyers have slowed, inventory growth is not as expected.
Monthly Inventory Of Listings
This graph provides a different way of looking at the number of listings in the past four years and helps showcase the inventory volume decrease.
This graph compares the monthly influx of listings from the previous four years to this year's listings, represented by the black line. The number of homes available for sale is slightly higher than in 2022 but still far lower than what was available in 2019, 2020, and 2021. It's important to note that inventory was scarce in those years as well, so we need to be alarmed; Not that there are fewer homes than usual, but fewer homes are available than in years with insufficient listings.
Currently, the number of listings is much lower than in recent years, and all four years shown were seller's markets with too few listings to meet the demand in the market. For home prices to fall for an extended period, demand must significantly decrease to reverse the supply and demand dynamic. While some markets may experience falling home prices due to declining populations, most US housing markets have a supply void that has slowed buyer activity, even when mortgage interest rates were below 4%.
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New Listings Still Too Few
This graph depicts the monthly count of newly listed properties in the market for the past four years, and currently, the number of new listings is at its slowest.
Many national news media outlets have predicted impending doom with home prices set to plummet, but the decreasing inventory suggests otherwise. For there to be a significant decline in prices, the supply needs to exceed demand. However, the graph shows that the supply is decreasing at a similar or faster rate than the demand. Hence, there is no indication of a growing supply issue at this time.
On the contrary, due to the supply shortage, there will be added pressure on home prices to rise should anything happen that stimulates demand. Therefore, according to Zillow's most recent data, it is reasonable to conclude that home prices will not significantly decrease in most local US housing markets.
Home Appreciation Is Slowing
Let's look at what Zillow reports about the median US home price.
This graph displays the median list price in the blue field, and the red line plots Zillow's estimate of the median home sales price during the same period. The blue field demonstrates a seasonal pattern, with prices starting low at the beginning of the year, increasing in the summer, and then decreasing slightly towards the end of the year. Reports of "list prices dropping" are insignificant and ignorant, as the median list price routinely declines at the end of each year.
This graph highlights two essential points. First, home prices generally increase, so it's reasonable to expect end-of-year asking prices to be higher than at the beginning of the year. Second, sellers who initially asked for inflated prices earlier in the year often have to reduce their prices to sell before the year's end. Homeowners can ask any price they want, but they need to meet the market at the right price to sell their property.
The red line in the graph shows that there is no discernible intra-year cycle for home prices; they tend to rise steadily. Although the median home sales price had been increasing rapidly in the past few years, the decreasing number of sales has now flattened the median home price growth rate. It will take a few more months to determine if buyers are purchasing cheaper homes or if home values are declining.
Zillow Expects Slower US Home Home Price Growth
This graph estimates the median home price in the US, taking into account the typical prices of single-family homes, condominiums, and co-ops.
However, this graph stands out because it concentrates on a specific market segment. It analyzes properties between the 35th and 65th percentile, representing the middle third of the market. The graph accurately estimates the median home price trends over time by examining this range of homes. This gives us a unique perspective and a better understanding of the US housing market.
By closely examining this graph, you will notice that Zillow has provided home value data from 2000 to 2024. This is because their dataset includes both historical data and a prediction that home values will increase by 1.0% over the next year.
It's worth noting that Zillow's estimation has become more conservative. For example, in January of last year, it estimated an annual growth rate of 17.3%.
Zillow's Home Value Index sheds light on the alarming decline in home affordability. According to Zillow's estimates, the median home price has increased by more than 109% since February 2012, with an annual growth rate of nearly 7%.
Comparing the rate of home price growth over the past two years to the rate during the housing bubble reveals a concerning trend. The steepness of the slope indicates a faster acceleration in price increases, which explains the decline in the affordability of homes.
And Zillow is not the only real estate platform predicting home price growth.
CoreLogic Expects 3.1% Growth In Home Prices
First American CoreLogic, Inc., a large provider of US property and ownership information, just released their forecast for home prices.
CoreLogic predicts that home prices will increase by 3.1% in the coming year, more than three times Zillow's forecast.
It's important to understand that the supply and demand of homes is the primary factor affecting changes in home prices. The fact that prices have risen steeply in the past isn't relevant; we should be focused on the shortage of available homes that is driving this issue.
Due to the extremely low number of homes on the market for sale, home prices have skyrocketed. As the next graph shows, home prices are rising in most markets in Zillow's report.
Are Home Prices Falling?
Are you hoping that home prices will fall? If so, brace yourself for some surprising information! According to Zillow, reports of falling home prices only apply to just 8% of cities tracked by Zillow and are not widespread across the country.
Of the 896 cities reported by Zillow, 822 posted growth in home prices for the past twelve months. Only 74 markets reported declines.
Zillow continues to report year-over-year increases in home prices in the US, but understandably, some of our readers may have heard different news. To delve deeper into the issue, let's explore why there are conflicting reports about declining home prices.
Month-Over-Month Home Prices: Growing In 57% Of US Markets
This graph shows which housing markets in the United States have had the largest increase in home prices over the past month.
Out of the 896 cities that Zillow reported on, 629 (70%) experienced an increase in home prices in December, while 267 (30%) saw a decrease. This could be why there are numerous reports of declining home prices.
If you've been following my recent reports on US home prices, you may remember that the median home price typically rises in a staggered manner throughout the year or decreases similarly in declining years. It would be premature to identify a trend in price changes after just a few months because doing so would have resulted in reporting declines for the past five years, even though the median home price was rising.
It's evident that the growth rate for home prices is slowing down, but it's too early to predict that we'll see annual price drops in most US housing markets. The market is still appreciating, with 92% of markets reporting annual gains and 70% showing monthly gains.
When reports suggest a significant decline in home prices, such as 30%, 40%, or 50%, it's important to question the data that led to that conclusion. I certainly have not encountered such data.
Rental Rates Are The Key For Measuring Supply
The median rental rate graph holds the key to affirming or refuting reports on the overall supply of homes in the US. As we all know, when there is a shortage of homes available in the market, both home prices and rental rates tend to skyrocket, while the opposite happens when supply exceeds demand. Thus, Zillow tracks rents as well as home prices as a useful indicator of supply imbalances, making the median rental rate graph a crucial tool for understanding the US housing market.
This graph displays the monthly rental rate index (median rent) in blue and the year-over-year percentage change in red. The significant growth shown in red, which peaked at over 17% annual growth in February, is worth noting. However, rents have grown by 6.3% in the past twelve months, which is slower than the rates observed in the prior months.
This rising trend is due to the declining inventory of homes for sale and rent. As a result, buying and renting a home have become more expensive, which is reflected in the increase in rental rates. In February, the median rental rate of $1,976 was 24% higher than the median rental rate recorded two years ago. This shows that rental rates have also become unaffordable, along with home prices. After all, who do you know that could easily handle a 24% increase in the cost of living?
The fact that both rents and prices are increasing together confirms that the supply of homes in the US is insufficient to meet the growing demand. This shortage will likely continue until a significant output from US home builders. Although there are some markets where the supply of homes exceeds demand, the overall US housing market remains undersupplied.
The Crisis That Is Home Affordability
The current state of home affordability is a major issue that demands attention. People who cannot afford to buy a home are also being priced out of the rental market. Even when home prices fell in 2008, rental rates continued to rise, indicating a significant problem with the housing inventory.
This issue in 2008 stemmed from decreased demand for homes for sale, mostly caused by the government's intervention in the housing market. The government's measures to control the market made it very difficult for borrowers to qualify for loans, which resulted in only the wealthiest buyers being able to purchase homes. This, in turn, led to increased demand for rental properties, driving up rental rates even as home prices dropped.
Today, the housing crisis is primarily caused by a lack of inventory. Even after doubling, mortgage interest rates are still relatively low, so they cannot be blamed for the high cost of housing. The root of the problem lies in the fact that we have not built enough homes in the past fifty years, and the NIMBYism movement is partly to blame for this.
To address this issue, local governments must work on solutions to increase the number of properties available to house our growing population. This will require leadership that many elected officials may not possess. As concerned citizens, we can take action by contacting our local elected officials and expressing our dissatisfaction with the soaring prices of homes and rentals. It is crucial to clarify that the root of the problem is a lack of supply and that a different approach is needed to address the housing shortage in America.
If you have thoughts on the limited housing supply in America, please share them in the comments section below. Let's work together to find solutions to this critical issue.
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