The outlook of the U.S. housing market in the second half of the year comes down to two familiar words: mortgage rates.
In the first half, high rates have kept housing in a state of suspended animation, as borrowing costs priced out prospective buyers, while homeowners with mortgage rates of 3% or less are unwilling to sell and face having to borrow for their next home at something closer to 7%.
- Experts expect mortgage rates to even out around 6% by the end of the year.
- A new trend of domestic migration into Sun Belt cities is expected to continue.
- New single family home building will make a dent in the need for housing inventory.
Despite high demand and home prices that are now starting to fall, the market is still relatively sluggish at a point in the year where it's historically at a peak. While new construction is rising to meet some of the demand for single-family homes, it won’t be enough to meet the current market needs.
So what can homebuyers expect for the latter half of 2023? While the Federal Reserve is expected to continue raising rates through the end of the year, industry leaders foresee mortgage rates dropping and homebuying subsequently picking up as home prices fall and affordability improves.
Still, few expect a recovery that would allow the market to catch up with the pace of activity the U.S. saw in 2022.
Rates Will Determine Trajectory of Market
The Federal Reserve has signaled that more rate hikes may be in store before the end of the year. Once the rate hikes slow or stop, affordability concerns will slowly start to ease, according to Realtor Chief Economist Danielle Hale.
“It means affordability will start to improve, but not drastically,” Hale said.
Experts see mortgage rates headed on a more stable path. As inflation is expected to continue cooling, mortgage rates are expected to decline. Another peak is anticipated for June, but Hale predicts it could be the final uptick before conditions begin to even out.
“We think that June will have been another temporary peak in mortgage rates and we'll see them gradually ease from the 6.7% range they've been in recently, down to near 6% at the end of the year, likely hovering just above 6%,” Hale said in an email.
That evening out around 6% will help homebuyers who have been waiting on the sidelines to re-enter the market, according to National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, but it may not be enough to ease the lack of inventory just yet.
“That will help boost both housing demand and supply. For homeowners who are mishoused (i.e., new child in the family, new job in the other part of town, etc.) but have been unwilling to sell due to locked-in low rates, the cost of a move becomes less costly with falling mortgage rates,” Yun said in a statement provided to Investopedia.
Inventory Boost Expected to Help Meet High Demand
As mortgage rates cool, inventory is expected to tick up again throughout the latter half the year. Chronically low inventory of existing homes is dampening market conditions. Analysts at Fannie Mae anticipate low inventory when it comes to existing homes through the end of the year.
“We continue to expect that existing home sales will decline modestly through the rest of the year amid a broader economic slowdown, ongoing affordability constraints, and limited inventories of homes available for sale,” Fannie Mae’s economic and strategic research group wrote online.1 “The ongoing lack of existing home inventory continues to provide a boost to the new home market, though, as May represented the largest single-month jump in single-family starts in percentage terms since June 2020.”
Compass CEO Robert Reffkin told CNBC he thinks when rates drop back down to around 5.5%, that's when the inventory logjam should begin to clear.
"The issue we are seeing is that we need to have an unlock of inventory. It's probably going to happen when mortgage rates get to 5%, 5.5% at a sustainable level. At that point, I would expect there to be a flood of inventory in the market, and it'll feel like the pandemic craze all over again," Reffkin said.2
Meanwhile, homebuilding is picking up to help fill inventory gaps across the country. May brought a significant uptick in the sale of new single-family homes, which rose 20% year-over-year and 12.2% from April.3
Home Prices Likely To Decline
Weak home prices are expected over the summer months, when they are typically at their peak, according to Realtor’s Hale.
“Specifically, while June is expected to be the seasonal peak for home prices in 2023, like it is most years, we won't see as big of a month to month climb as we did in 2022, which will mean ongoing mild declines when we're comparing home sale prices to one year ago,” Hale said.
The declines are expected to run through the early fall, depending on the Federal Reserve.
“By the time we get to the fourth quarter, mortgage rate and seasonal home price relief could be enough to stanch the declines” Hale added. “On net, we expect average home prices in 2023 to fall 0.6% compared to 2022.”
As supply boosts and mortgage rates and home prices fall, sales are expected to rise through the end of the year, according to NAR’s Yun.
“We’re likely approaching the bottom in home sales with steady improving home sales in the second half of the year and into 2024,” Yun said.