I started sfnewsletter at least as far back as 2004, and look at that…still sending you real estate market updates after all these years… Check out this OLD post from 2007!
The Big Story
Bank failures and rate hikes
- -Major trend reversals: Home sales rose 14.5% month-over-month, breaking the 12-month streak of declining numbers, while the median sale price increased 0.5% after a seven-month decline. Additionally, the median price per square foot rose during the first quarter, landing only $8 below the all-time high.
- -Bank failures sent a shockwave through the banking system, causing the Fed to increase its benchmark rate by 0.25%; however, mortgage rates, which are hovering around 6.5% for 30-year loans, remain largely unaffected.
- -The housing market is still dealing with low inventory and fewer new listings, which is causing more competition as buyers come to the market during the spring/summer season.
Note: You can find the charts & graphs for the Big Story at the end of the following section.
Tighter credit, at least in the short term
Look, we’ve all been there. You’re running a prominent regional bank that holds an outsized amount of uninsured deposits, which are overly concentrated in the tech sector, all while holding a huge, unhedged, long-dated bond portfolio that has taken a major hit over the past year due to rising interest rates. Then you’re forced to sell that portfolio, realizing a major loss, to provide liquidity to your depositors who need to withdraw their money to pay their bills after venture capital stops flowing. The major loss leads to a modern-day bank run and seizure of the bank by U.S. regulators, creating a domino effect that causes another bank failure and widespread concerns over systemic risk of the banking system. Of course, this may not describe you exactly, but the story may sound familiar, and you may be wondering if the uncertainty in the banking system affects you. The answer is probably a familiar one: maybe.
Banks are tightening their credit standards to hold more liquid assets on their balance sheets, so they may be less willing to lend out . However, credit has been tightening for over a year now as interest rates have risen, and banks also often sell their mortgages by way of Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS), so they don’t have to hold the long-term loans on their balance sheets. If a creditworthy homebuyer qualified for a loan before the bank failures, they almost surely still qualify today. In the short term, we don’t expect major mortgage rate moves due to the Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank failures.
The Fed, which coincidentally met right after the bank failures, chose to raise their benchmark rate by 0.25%, rather than the anticipated 0.50%, in a continuing effort to combat inflation. The Fed chose the smaller 0.25% hike because banks were already tightening after the bank failures, so the Fed had less of a need to do so as well. Inflation is still well above the 2% target, although it’s coming down steadily. At the current rate at which inflation is dropping, it should be back to the target rate in about a year. One caveat that could slow declining inflation is OPEC’s surprise announcement that they are cutting oil production, which will cause gas prices to increase over the next few months. All this to say, interest rates will remain elevated and volatile over the next 12 months, and, more specifically, mortgage rates will likely hover around 6-7%.
The 30-year average mortgage rate has been above 6% for six months now, and a significant number of buyers are finally coming back to the market. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), sales jumped 14.5% in February, the largest month-over-month increase since July 2020, breaking the 12-month streak of declining sales. We attribute three main factors to the increase: (1) the initial sticker shock of higher rates has worn off, (2) the time before buyers refinance has shortened, and (3) typical seasonality has returned. As rates shot up in 2022, affordability plummeted, causing a huge number of potential buyers to get priced out of the market or, at least, reassess purchasing a home. As inflation continues to decline, the Fed has offered a clearer picture of their path. They will raise the federal funds rate through 2023 to around 5.5% and then lower rates by about 2% over the course of 2024 and 2025. Buyers, who are expecting to refinance, therefore, have more of a timeline for when they can expect lower rates. The monthly mortgage cost is reduced by 10% for every 1% decrease in the mortgage rate, so buyers can greatly reduce their monthly cost as rates fall.
Different regions and individual houses vary from the broad national trends, so we’ve included a Local Lowdown below to provide you with in-depth coverage of your area. In general, higher-priced regions have been hit harder by mortgage rate hikes than less expensive markets due to the absolute dollar cost of the rate hikes. As always, we will continue to monitor the housing and economic markets to best guide you in buying or selling your home.
Big Story Data
The Local Lowdown
- -Active listings in San Francisco declined in March, as sales increased and fewer listings came to market.
- -Home prices rose meaningfully in the first quarter of 2023, up 10.8% for single-family homes and 19.9% for condos, indicating that unusually low inventory is once again driving pricing despite higher mortgage rates.
- -The market is firmly back to a sellers’ market for single-family homes and slightly favors sellers for condos after Months of Supply Inventory declined sharply, as sales increased and homes sold faster month over month.
Note: You can find the charts/graphs for the Local Lowdown at the end of this section.
Declining inventory meets rising demand
Every year, by at least March, we hope to see inventory rise after a high number of new listings come to market, which easily accommodate the increase in sales we also tend to see in the first half of the year. However, the number of new listings declined each month of the first quarter of 2023, while sales rose. Typically, inventory grows in the first half of the year, peaking in June or July. We don’t expect the inventory growth in the second quarter to make up for the decline in the first quarter, keeping supply of homes and, in turn, sales historically low for the rest of the year. Even with sales trending higher, they are still far below last year’s level. As demand increases in the second quarter, competition among buyers and housing prices will climb with it. If active listings drop further in the second quarter, we could easily see home prices move significantly higher into the summer.
Sales jumped 67% from February to March, as inventory nears record lows
Total inventory has remained fairly stable near all-time lows over the past four months, after a steep decline from May to December 2022. Higher interest rates and the buying boom from 2020 and 2021 created the current market conditions of low inventory, new listings, and sales. Homeowners generally aren’t buying and selling properties year after year; the median homeowner tenure is about 13 years, according to Redfin. It’s reasonable, therefore, to assume that if an outsized number of sales happen in a two year period, far fewer sellers will come to market in the year or two after that event. For homeowners that either bought or refinanced in 2020 or 2021 with historically low rates, the prospect of moving and financing at a much higher rate isn’t appealing.
Interest rates have been elevated for enough time that buyers are more comfortable re-entering desirable markets like San Francisco’s. Sales jumped 66.7% from February to March, while inventory further declined, down 43.0% year over year. Buyers aren’t facing anything similar to the hypercompetitive 2021 market, but competition is certainly ramping up. New listings fell by 61.8% year over year, while sales declined 41.6%. We still expect some inventory growth in the second quarter of 2023, but inventory will almost certainly remain historically low for the year.
Higher sales drop Months of Supply Inventory, indicating a market shift
Months of Supply Inventory (MSI) quantifies the supply/demand relationship by measuring how many months it would take for all current homes listed on the market to sell at the current rate of sales. The long-term average MSI is around three months in California, which indicates a balanced market. An MSI lower than three indicates that there are more buyers than sellers on the market (meaning it’s a sellers’ market), while a higher MSI indicates there are more sellers than buyers (meaning it’s a buyers’ market). MSI dropped in February and March for both single-family homes and condos, meaning the market shifted from a buyers’ market to a sellers’ market. The sharp drop in MSI occurred due to the jump in sales and continued low inventory.
Local Lowdown Data
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