December 16th, 2015, by Jonathan Smoke, Realtor.com Economist
It’s almost the new year. Get ready to break out the Cristal: We had a great 2015—the best year for housing since 2007. And our forecast here at realtor.com® projects an even better year in 2016.
How so? Well, with economic growth chugging along, employment will continue to increase, meaning that people will have more money coming in and they’ll be able to buy their first home or upgrade to a new one.
Here’s a closer look at the trends that will have the greatest impact on the housing market in 2016.
1. We’ll return to normal (Anyone remember normal?)
2. Generational shuffle will make 2016 the best year to sell in the near future
Two other generations will also affect the market in 2016: financially recovering Gen Xers and older boomers thinking about or entering retirement. Since most of these people are already homeowners, they’ll play a double role, boosting the market as both sellers and buyers. Gen Xers are in their prime earning years and thus able to relocate to better neighborhoods for their families. Older boomers are approaching (or already in) retirement and seeking to downsize and lock in a lower cost of living. Together, these two generations will provide much of the suburban inventory that millennials desire to start their own families.
Assuming that most of these households will both sell and buy, it is important to recognize that 2016 is shaping up to be the best year in recent memory to sell. Supply remains very tight, so inventory is moving faster. Given the forecast that price appreciation will slow in 2016 to a more normal rate of growth, delaying will not produce substantially higher values, and will also see higher mortgage rates on any new purchase.
3. Builders will focus on more affordable price points
We are already seeing a decline in new-home prices for new contracts signed this fall. In addition, credit access is improving enough to make the first-time buyer segment more attractive to builders. We’re looking for the strong growth in new-home sales and single-family construction as builders offer more affordable product in the year ahead. Consumers of all types should consider new homes, but availability will be highly dependent on location.
4. Higher mortgage rates will affect high-cost markets the most
Thirty-year fixed rates will likely end 2016 about 60 basis points higher than they are today. That level of increase is manageable, as consumers will have multiple tactics to mitigate some of that increase. However, higher rates will drive monthly payments higher, and, along with that, debt-to-income ratios will also go higher. Markets with the highest prices will see that higher rates will result in fewer sales; however, across the U.S., the effect will be minimal as the move to higher rates will spur more existing homeowners to sell and buy before rates go even higher.
5. Already unaffordable rents will go up more than home prices
Because of this, it is more affordable to buy in more than three-quarters of the U.S. However, for the majority of renting households, buying is not a near-term option due to poor household credit scores, limited savings, and lack of documentable stable income of the kind necessary to qualify for a mortgage today.
This trend does not bode well for the health of the housing market in the future. It will only improve if we see more construction of affordable rental housing as well as more of a pathway for renters to become homeowners.