2023 Real Estate Forecast: Why This Market Won’t Be Like 2008

This video is the latest in our Monday with Matthew series with Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. Each month, he analyzes the most up-to-date U.S. housing data to keep you well-informed about what’s going on in the real estate market.

Hello there, I’m Windermere’s Real Estate’s Chief Economist Matthew Gardner and welcome to the first episode of “Monday with Matthew” for 2023. As has become tradition, this first episode of the year will be dedicated to my real estate forecast for the U.S. housing market, so let’s get straight to it.

2023 Real Estate Forecast

Existing Home Sales & Forecast

Image Source: Matthew Gardner


U.S. home sales trended lower through all of 2022 and, although I believe that sales will still have held above five million, this certainly won’t be the case in 2023. Affordability and higher financing costs will continue to act as headwinds when it comes to sales, but I think that the bigger issue will be that listing activity will not rise significantly as we move through the year.

As I have been saying for several months now, I don’t see why many households who don’t have to move will move and lose the historically low interest rate that they currently benefit from. That said, sales will still occur this year but at just 4.8 million, sales will be lower than we have seen since 2014.

Annual Change in Median Sale Prices

From Matthew Gardner's 2023 real estate forecast, a bar graph showing the annual change in median sale prices for homes in the U.S. real estate market. The years 2015 through 2023 are on the x-axis and percentages -4% through 20% run the length of the y-axis. The numbers are as follows: 6.8% in 2015, 5.1% in 2016, 5.7% in 2017, 4.9% in 2018 and 2019, 9.1% in 2020, 18.2% in 2021, 8.7% (forecasted) in 2022, and -1.1% (forecasted) in 2023.

Image Source: Matthew Gardner


Much has been said about the future of home prices, with some forecasters even suggesting that housing prices will collapse in a similar fashion to that seen following the bursting of the housing bubble back in 2008. Now, although price growth through the pandemic period was clearly excessive, fundamentally speaking, the two periods cannot be considered to be similar at all.

It’s my opinion that sale prices in 2023 will be very modestly lower than last year and I certainly don’t expect to see a collapse in home values.

But not all markets are created equal. The pandemic created what has become known as “Zoom-Towns.” These were cheap markets that affluent buyers flocked to because of their newly found ability to work from home and this led sale prices there to soar. It’s these locations that will likely see prices fall more significantly. Ultimately, expect to see prices fall through the first half of this year before starting to recover in the second half.

New Home Starts & Forecast (Single Family)

From Matthew Gardner's 2023 real estate forecast, a bar graph of the single-family new home starts. The y-axis shows numbers in thousands from 0 to 1,200 and the x-axis shows the years 2015 through 2023. The numbers are as follows: 715 in 2015, 782 in 2016, 849 in 2017, 876 in 2018, 888 in 2019, 991 in 2020, 1,127 in 2021, 1,009 (forecasted) in 2022, and 837 (forecasted) in 2023.

Image Source: Matthew Gardner


Looking now at the new construction market, housing starts fell last year as construction costs remained high and mortgage rates rose which lowered demand.  And I’m afraid that I do not see 2023 as being one where builders will deliver more inventory, with starts pulling back to a level the country hasn’t seen since 2016. That said, I am expecting a recovery in 2024 when new home starts will break back above the 1,000,000 level.

New Home Sales Forecast

From Matthew Gardner's 2023 real estate forecast, a bar graph showing the new home sales numbers from the U.S. housing market. The y-axis shows (in thousands) the numbers 200 to 900 and the x-axis shows the years 2015 through 2023. The number of new home sales are as follows (in thousands): 501 in 2015, 561 in 2016, 613 in 2017, 617 in 2018, 683 in 2019, 822 in 2020, 771 in 2021, 653 (forecasted) in 2022, and 584 (forecasted) in 2023.

Image Source: Matthew Gardner


New home sales in 2023 will fall further coming in below 600,000 but there is some light at the end of the tunnel with sales picking up fairly significantly again in 2024. We all understand that the country has a significant undersupply of ownership housing, but the costs associated with building new homes is still making it remarkably hard for builders even though they understand that demand will be significant for at least the next decade and a half given current demographics.

But the problem they will continue to face is that demand will primarily come from entry level buyers and, simply put, the cost to build a home precludes many developers from being able to meet this demand.

Average 30-Year Mortgage Rate & Forecast

A bar graph showing the average 30-year mortgage rate for the years 2015 through 2023. The y-axis shows percentages ranging from 0% to 7% and the years are displayed on the x-axis. The numbers are as follows: 3.9% in 2015, 3.7% in 2016, 4% in 2017, 4.5% in 2018, 3.9% in 2019, 3.1% in 2020, 3% in 2021, 5.4% in 2022, and 6.1% (forecasted) in 2023. This is the mortgage rate component of Matthew Gardner's 2023 real estate forecast.

Image Source: Matthew Gardner


And finally, my forecast for mortgage rates in 2023. Although this might not look good at all, as they say, “the devil is in the details.” Rates skyrocketed last year as the Fed stopped buying treasuries and mortgage-backed securities and, although they are off the highs we saw toward the end of last year, they are still significantly higher today than the market has become used to seeing.

As you can see here, I’m anticipating the average 30-year conventional rate to average 6.1% in 2023, but my forecast is actually a bit better than this shows.

Average 30-Year Mortgage Rate Forecast 2023

A bar graph showing the average 30-year mortgage rate in recent quarters, plus a forecast of the mortgage rate for each quarter in 2023. The y-axis displays percentages ranging from 0% to 7% and the x-axis displays the quarters from Q4 2021 to Q4 2023. The numbers are as follows: 3.1% in Q4 2021, 3.8% in Q1 2022, 5.3% in Q2 2022, 5.6% in Q3 2022, 6.8% in Q4 2022, 6.4% (forecasted) in Q1 2023, 6.1% (forecasted) in Q2 2023, 6% (forecasted) in Q3 2023, and 5.6% (forecasted) in Q4 2023. This is the mortgage rate component to Matthew Gardner's 2023 real estate forecast.

Image Source: Matthew Gardner


You see, my quarterly forecast suggests that rates have actually already peaked, and that they will trend lower as we move through this year and break below 6% by the fourth quarter. I would add that if anything my forecast may be a little pessimistic, and rates may end 2023 a little lower than I am showing here.

But that will depend on the Fed, and how long they will continue raising rates, and how long it will take before they start to lower them if the US enters a recession this year, which many forecasters including myself believe will be the case.

So, there you have it, my 2023 U.S. housing forecast. I will leave you with this one last thought. 2023 will be a transition year when the housing market will come off the “high” we saw during the pandemic and borrowing costs were artificially low.

I don’t see any reason for buyers or sellers to panic though. By the end of 2023, most markets will have corrected themselves and I believe we will see prices and demand start to pick up again toward the end of this year, but at a far more normalized pace.

As always, I look forward to your comments on my forecasts and I’ll see you all again next month. Take care now.


About Matthew Gardner

As Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, Matthew Gardner is responsible for analyzing and interpreting economic data and its impact on the real estate market on both a local and national level. Matthew has over 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

In addition to his day-to-day responsibilities, Matthew sits on the Washington State Governors Council of Economic Advisors; chairs the Board of Trustees at the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington; and is an Advisory Board Member at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington where he also lectures in real estate economics.

The post 2023 Real Estate Forecast: Why This Market Won’t Be Like 2008 appeared first on Windermere Real Estate.

Matthew Gardner’s Top 10 Predictions for 2023

This video shows Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner’s Top 10 Predictions for 2023. Each month, he analyzes the most up-to-date U.S. housing data to keep you well-informed about what’s going on in the real estate market.

Matthew Gardner’s Top 10 Predictions for 2023

1. There Is No Housing Bubble

Mortgage rates rose steeply in 2022 which, when coupled with the massive run-up in home prices, has some suggesting that we are recreating the housing bubble of 2007. But that could not be further from the truth.

Over the past couple of years, home prices got ahead of themselves due to a perfect storm of massive pandemic-induced demand and historically low mortgage rates. While I expect year-over-year price declines in 2023, I don’t believe there will be a systemic drop in home values. Furthermore, as financing costs start to pull back in 2023, I expect that will allow prices to resume their long-term average pace of growth.

2. Mortgage Rates Will Drop

Mortgage rates started to skyrocket at the start of 2022 as the Federal Reserve announced their intent to address inflation. While the Fed doesn’t control mortgage rates, they can influence them, which we saw with the 30-year rate rising from 3.2% in early 2022 to over 7% by October.

Their efforts so far have yet to significantly reduce inflation, but they have increased the likelihood of a recession in 2023. Therefore, early in the year I expect the Fed to start pulling back from their aggressive policy stance, and this will allow rates to begin slowly stabilizing. Rates will remain above 6% until the fall of 2023 when they should dip into the high 5% range. While this is higher than we have become used to, it’s still more than 2% lower than the historic average.

3. Don’t Expect Inventory to Grow Significantly

Although inventory levels rose in 2022, they are still well below their long-term average. In 2023 I don’t expect a significant increase in the number of homes for sale, as many homeowners do not want to lose their low mortgage rate. In fact, I estimate that 25-30 million homeowners have mortgage rates around 3% or lower. Of course, homes will be listed for sale for the usual reasons of career changes, death, and divorce, but the 2023 market will not have the normal turnover in housing that we have seen in recent years.

4. No Buyer’s Market But a More Balanced One

With supply levels expected to remain well below normal, it’s unlikely that we will see a buyer’s market in 2023. A buyer’s market is usually defined as having more than six months of available inventory, and the last time we reached that level was in 2012 when we were recovering from the housing bubble. To get to six months of inventory, we would have to reach two million listings, which hasn’t happened since 2015. In addition, monthly sales would have to drop below 325,000, a number we haven’t seen in over a decade. While a buyer’s market in 2023 is unlikely, I do expect a return to a far more balanced one.

5. Sellers Will Have to Become More Realistic

We all know that home sellers have had the upper hand for several years, but those days are behind us. That said, while the market has slowed, there are still buyers out there. The difference now is that higher mortgage rates and lower affordability are limiting how much buyers can pay for a home. Because of this, I expect listing prices to pull back further in the coming year, which will make accurate pricing more important than ever when selling a home.

6. Workers Return to Work (Sort of)

The pandemic’s impact on where many people could work was profound, as it allowed buyers to look further away from their workplaces and into more affordable markets. Many businesses are still determining their long-term work-from-home policies, but in the coming year I expect there will be more clarity for workers. This could be the catalyst for those who have been waiting to buy until they know how often they’re expected to work at the office.

7. New Construction Activity Is Unlikely to Increase

Permits for new home construction are down by over 17% year over year, as are new home starts. I predict that builders will pull back further in 2023, with new starts coming in at a level we haven’t seen since before the pandemic.

Builders will start seeing some easing in the supply chain issues that hit them hard over the past two years, but development costs will still be high. Trying to balance homebuilding costs with what a consumer can pay (given higher mortgage rates) will likely lead builders to slow activity. This will actually support the resale market, as fewer new homes will increase the demand for existing homes.

8. Not All Markets Are Created Equal

Markets where home price growth rose the fastest in recent years are expected to experience a disproportionate swing to the downside. For example, markets in areas that had an influx of remote workers, who flocked to cheaper housing during the pandemic, will likely see prices fall by a greater percentage than other parts of the country. That said, even those markets will start to see prices stabilize by the end of 2023 and resume a more reasonable pace of price growth.

9. Affordability Will Continue to Be a Major Issue

In most markets, home prices will not increase in 2023, but any price drop will not be enough to make housing more affordable. And with mortgage rates remaining higher than they’ve been in over a decade, affordability will continue to be a problem in the coming year, which is a concerning outlook for first-time buyers.

Over the past two years, many renters have had aspirations of buying but the timing wasn’t quite right for them. With both prices and mortgage rates spiraling upward in 2022, it’s likely that many renters are now in a situation where the dream of homeownership has gone. That’s not to say they will never be able to buy a home, just that they may have to wait a lot longer than they had hoped.

10. Government Needs to Take Housing More Seriously

Over the past two years, the market has risen to such an extent that it has priced out millions of potential home buyers. With a wave of demand coming from Millennials and Gen Z, the pace of housing production must increase significantly, but many markets simply don’t have enough land to build on. This is why I expect more cities, counties, and states to start adjusting their land use policies to free up more land for housing.

But it’s not just land supply that can help. Elected officials can assist housing developers by utilizing Tax Increment Financing tools, whereby the government reimburses a private developer as incremental taxes are generated from housing development. There are many tools like this at the government’s disposal to help boost housing supply, and I sincerely hope that they start to take this critical issue more seriously.


About Matthew Gardner

As Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, Matthew Gardner is responsible for analyzing and interpreting economic data and its impact on the real estate market on both a local and national level. Matthew has over 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

In addition to his day-to-day responsibilities, Matthew sits on the Washington State Governors Council of Economic Advisors; chairs the Board of Trustees at the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at the University of Washington; and is an Advisory Board Member at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington where he also lectures in real estate economics.

The post Matthew Gardner’s Top 10 Predictions for 2023 appeared first on Windermere Real Estate.

Matthew Gardner’s Top 10 Predictions for 2022

This video shows Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner’s Top 10 Predictions for 2022. Each month, he analyzes the most up-to-date U.S. housing data to keep you well-informed about what’s going on in the real estate market. 

Matthew Gardner’s Top 10 Predictions for 2022

1. Prices will continue to rise

There are some who believe that U.S. home prices will drop in the coming year given last year’s extremely rapid pace of growth, but I disagree. I don’t expect prices to fall; however, the pace of appreciation will slow significantly, rising by around 6% in 2022 as compared to 16% in 2021 (nationally). As such, agents need to be prepared to explain this new reality to their clients who have become very accustomed to prices spiraling upward. Those days are likely behind us—and it’s not a bad thing!

2. Spring will be busier than expected

The work-from-home paradigm is here to stay for the foreseeable future, and this could lead to increased buyer demand. Many companies have postponed announcing their long-term work-from-home policies due to the shifting COVID-19 variants, but I believe they will soon off er more clarity to their employees. Once this happens, it will likely lead to a new pool of home buyers who want to move to more affordable markets that are further away from their workplaces. I also expect to see more buyers who are driven by the need for a home that is better equipped for long-term remote working.

3. The rise of the suburbs

For a large number of people whose employers will allow them to work from home on an ongoing basis, remote working will not be an all-or-nothing proposition. It will be a blend of working from home and the office. I believe this will lead some buyers to look for homes in areas that are relatively proximate to their office, such as the suburbs or other ex-urban markets, but away from high-density neighborhoods.

4. New construction jumps

I anticipate the cost of building homes to come down a bit this year as inflation finally starts to taper, and this should provide additional stimulus for homebuilders to start construction of more units. Material costs spiked in 2021 with lumber prices alone adding about $36,000 to the price of a new home. This year, I’m hopeful that the supply chain bottlenecks will be fixed, which should cause prices to moderate and result in a drop in building material costs.

5. Zoning issues will be addressed

I’m optimistic that discussions around zoning policies will continue to pick up steam this year. This is because many U.S. legislators now understand that one of the main ways to deal with housing affordability is to increase the supply of land for residential construction. Despite concerns that increased density will lower home values, I believe existing homeowners will actually see their homes rise in value faster because of these policies.

6. Climate change will impact where buyers live

Now that natural disasters are increasing in frequency and climate risk data is starting to become more readily available, get ready for home buyers to require information from their agents about these risks and their associated costs. Specifically, buyers will want to know about an area’s flood and fire risks and how they might impact their insurance costs and/or their mortgage rate.

7. Urban markets will bounce back

While increased working from home can, and will, raise housing demand in areas farther away from city centers, it may not necessarily mean less demand for living in cities. In fact, some urban neighborhoods that were once only convenient to a subset of commuters may now be considered highly desirable and accessible to a larger set of potential home buyers. At the same time, this could be a problem for some distressed urban neighborhoods where proximity to employment centers may have been their best asset.

8. A resurgence in foreign investors

Foreign buyers have been sitting on the sidelines since the pandemic began, but they started to look again when the travel ban was lifted in November 2021. Recently, the rise of the Omicron variant has halted their buying activity, but if our borders remain open, I fully expect foreign buyer demand to rise significantly in 2022. Keep in mind, foreign buyers were still buying homes sight unseen even when they were unable to enter the country, and this will likely still be the case if borders are closed again.

9. First-time buyers will be an even bigger factor in 2022

Once remote working policies are clearer, we should see increased demand by first-time buyers who currently rent. In 2022, 4.8 million millennials will turn 30, which is the median age of first-time buyers in the U.S. An additional 9.4 million will turn 28 or 29 in the coming year. I believe this group is likely to contemplate buying sooner than expected if they can continue working from home in some capacity. Doing so would allow them to buy in outlying markets where homes are more affordable.

10. Forbearance will come to an end

Forbearance was a well-thought-out program to keep people in their homes during the height of the pandemic. Some predicted this would lead to a wave of foreclosures that would hurt the housing market, but this has not been the case. In fact, there are now fewer than 900,000 U.S. homeowners in forbearance, down from its May 2020 peak of almost 4.8 million, and this number will continue to shrink. That said, there will likely be a moderate increase in foreclosure activity in 2022, but most homeowners in this situation will sell in order to meet their financial obligations rather than have their home repossessed.

The post Matthew Gardner’s Top 10 Predictions for 2022 appeared first on Windermere Real Estate.

11/15/2021 Housing and Economic Update from Matthew Gardner

This video is the latest in our Monday with Matthew series with Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. Each month, he analyzes the most up-to-date U.S. housing data to keep you well-informed about what’s going on in the real estate market. 


Hello there!  I’m Windermere Real Estate’s Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, and welcome to the latest episode of Mondays with Matthew.

Before I get started, I wanted to let you know that this will be the final episode of Monday with Matthew for 2021 as I’m going to be taking Christmas off. So it’s time to offer you my forecasts for the U.S. economy and the country’s housing market in 2022.

Although many people – including myself – had hoped that COVID-19 would have become a somewhat distant memory by now, and that the economy would have recovered this was – sadly – not to be the case, and the pandemic’s influence on the economy is still being felt and all the datasets I track tell me that, although we are certainly healing, COVID continues to act as a drag on economic growth and I expect that to continue through the spring of next year – if not a little longer.

Economic Recovery & Growth

And it’s because of this that I – along with many other economists – have spent the last few months lowering our forecasts for economic growth – at least through the middle of 2022. So, let’s look at this a little closer. 



Here is my forecast for economic growth through the end of next year and you will note that, even though I am cautious in regard to the economy as we move through the winter and into 2022, I am still expecting to see a fairly decent bounce back in the fourth quarter of this year following the very disappointing rate that we saw in Q-3.

And on an annualized basis, I believe that the economy will have expanded by just shy of 5% this year and come in a little below 4% in 2022.

Simply put, the impacts of COVID-19 are going to continue to act as a drag on virus sensitive consumer services next year and ongoing supply chain issues will also delay inventory restocking. Both of these impacts have a depressing effect, in more ways than one, on economic growth, but I don’t see any chance that we will fall back into a recession.


A bar graph titled "Non-Farm Payrolls: Average Monthly Change & Forecast," with Q4 2019 through Q4 2022 on the x-axis and figures in the thousands from negative 5,000 to 2,000 on the y-axis. The low was negative 4,333 on Q2 2020 and the high was 1,342 in Q3 2020.


Looking at the employment picture this chart shows my forecast for average monthly growth in jobs during a quarter and to give you some context, over the last decade or so the country has added an average of around 200,000 jobs per month during any one quarter and my forecast is for more robust employment growth as we move through 2022 and, if correct, I expect to see the country return to pre-COVID employment levels in the second half of the year.


A bar graph titled "U.S. Unemployment Rate & Forecast," showing January 2020 to Q4 2022 on the x-axis and percentage figures on the y-axis, from 2% to 16%. The high was close to 15 percent in April 2020 and the low was just over 3 percent in January and February 2020.


And with jobs continuing to return I’m looking for the unemployment rate to continue trending lower and breaking south of 4% during the final quarter of the year. With the expiration of enhanced unemployment benefits – in concert with wages rising significantly in many face-to-face industries such as leisure and hospitality – prospects for people currently unemployed are looking rather good. That said, there are still millions of unemployed Americans who are not looking for work even with wages rising, the labor force still down by 3 million from its pre-pandemic peak, and this is worrying as businesses continue to have a hard time finding employees which raises the expectation that inflation will remain higher for longer than I would have liked to see.

Measures of Inflation

And that leads nicely into my final economic forecast and that is my outlook for inflation. As we have discussed, supply chain issues and labor shortages have increased prices significantly and this top chart shows annual changes in all consumer prices which I expect to remain around 5% until next spring, before gradually dropping down to below 3% by the end of the year.


A slide titled "Measures of Inflation" with two line graphs. One is titled "Consumer Prices" and shows the percentage changes on the y-axis and the quarters from Q4 2018 to Q4 2022 on the x-axis. It shows an expected drop from Q4 2021 to Q4 2022. The "Core Consumer Prices" graphs showing the same measurements on each axis. It shows an expected increase in core consumer prices in Q1 2022 followed by an expected drop toward Q4 2022.


But the core inflation rate – which excludes the volatile food and energy sectors – won’t peak until early next year before it too starts to gradually pull back and, at these levels, the Federal Reserve will undoubtedly have started to raise interest rates to counteract inflationary pressures. This is not pretty, but I absolutely do not believe that we are in some sort of inflationary spiral, or that “stagflation” will raise its ugly head again.


A slide titled "Solid Growth This Year & Next" with a bar graph titled "U.S. Existing Home Sales w/ Forecast." It shows the existing home sales in millions every year from 2021 to 2022. 2021 and 2022 have the highest figures on the graph, at 6.02 and 5.98 million respectively.


U.S. Housing Market

Okay! Now it’s time to turn our attention to the U.S. housing market which was a beacon of hope during the pandemic period and, given the massive spike in demand that started last June, I’m looking for a little more than 6 million existing homes will have changed hands in 2021, but I don’t see this level increasing in 2022 – mainly due to ongoing supply limitations as well as rising affordability issues, and I’m therefore forecasting sales to pull back  – albeit very modestly – next year. That said, the country has never seen more than 6 million home selling in a single year since records were first kept so the number is still very impressive.


A slide titled " Sales Prices Slow in 2022," with a bar graph titled "U.S. Median Sale Price of Existing Homes & Forecast," which shows the annual percentage change of single-family and multifamily units for the years 2012 through 2022. The highest figure is 16.4 percent in 2021, whereas the lowest in both in 2018 and 2019 at 4.9 percent.


And with the market as tight as it has been so far this year, it shouldn’t be any surprise to see median sale prices skyrocketing and, even though we have 3 more months of sales data yet to be released, I still anticipate prices will have risen by almost 16 and a half % in 2021- a quite remarkable number. This pace of appreciation has never been seen before. In fact, the closest was back in 2005 – when the housing bubble was inflating rapidly – but even then, prices only rose by 12.2%.

But, as I mentioned in my sales forecast, this pace of growth is unsustainable and I am expecting to see some of the heat to come off the market next year but, a growth rate of 7.3% is certainly nothing to sniff at.

There are three major reasons why we will see the pace of growth slow. I have already mentioned my concerns regarding housing affordability, but mortgage rates and new supply will both influence the slowdown in sales and price growth in the resale arena.


A slide titled "Mortgage Rates Will Remain Favorable" with a bar graph titled "Average 30-Year Mortgage Rate History & Forecast." It shows a predicted increase mortgage rates from Q4 2021 at 3.13 percent to 3.78 percent in Q4 2022.


Although I do not prepare a forecast for housing affordability, this is my where I expect to see mortgage rates through the end of next year and I am looking for them to continue “stair-stepping” higher but still ending 2022 below 4% – very low by historic standards given that the long-term average for a conventional 30-year mortgage is somewhere around 7 1/2%.

Obviously, as rates notch higher that starts to compress price growth as it puts a lower ceiling on how much a buyer can afford to pay for a home.


A slide titled "New Home Starts Pick Up," with a bar graph titled "Single-Family Housing Starts w/ Forecast." The graph shows the housing starts in the thousands for the years 2012 through 2022. There is a gradual increase, from 535,000 in 2012 to an expected figure of over 1.2 million in 2022.


And slowing growth in existing home prices and sales will also be a function of additional supply and this chart shows my forecast for single-family starts this year and next. I expect more than a million homes to start construction in 2022 – continuing the trend that started in mid-2020 – but I am sure that some of you may be asking yourselves that if starts are already robust, how have existing home sales been able to increase so significantly if there has been solid supply coming from homebuilders – and that would be a great question.

And I would answer this by telling you that the way the Census gathers data on start is to count the number of home foundations that have been poured, but vertical construction has not necessarily started. And what we have been seeing is a lot of foundations but not so many homes actually being built – and we know this by looking at the number of homes that are for sale but have yet to be started. So, it’s important to look at a separate number that the Census Bureau also puts out which counts the number of units actually under construction, and that number has been growing significantly over the course of the last 18 months or so.


A slide titled "Growth Picks Up in 2022," with a bar graph titled "U.S. Single Family New Home Sales with Forecast." The graph shows the new home sales in thousands for the years 2012 through 2022. Sales were at a low of 368,000 in 2012, jumped to 835,000 in 2020, and are predicted to peak at 927,000 in 2022.


Builders have been hamstrung with rising labor and material costs which will lead new home sales this year to fall below the number seen in 2020; however, I do expect this to pick up significantly next year and my current forecast calls for 927,000 new homes to be sold in 2022.

So, there you have it, my economic and housing market forecast for 2022.

Of course, there are still a number of variables that could lead me to revise this forecast but, as an old economics professor of mine used to tell me, “Gardner, forecast well, but forecast often!”

If everything goes according to my plan, you should expect to see the housing market start to move towards some sort of balance next year, but I am afraid that it will still remain out of equilibrium until at least 2023.

And if you’re wondering, no, I don’t see a housing bubble forming and I’m also not at all concerned about homeowners currently in forbearance, but it would be silly to say that there aren’t any issues in the housing market that concern me because there are and the biggest of which is housing affordability and this will have a significant impact on the millennial generation who are continuing to get older, and they are all – well most – thinking about settling down and, possibly, having children, and I wonder how hard it will be for many of them to be able to afford to buy their first home because most really do want to become homeowners. Will builders figure out how to build to this massive pent-up demand? I guarantee you that whoever can solve this puzzle will do very, very well.

COVID-19 caused an unparalleled shock to the US economy and the rise of the delta variant has certainly impacted the speed of our recovery but, rest assured, this particular forecaster firmly believes that we will recover and that the economy will continue to grow.

Demand for ownership housing remains remarkably buoyant and, in fact, it is quite likely that demand may actually increase with the work from home paradigm that will start to gain momentum next year. It will be fascinating to watch how this impacts not just demand, but where these buyers will ultimately choose to live.

In closing, I very much hope that you have all enjoyed the videos that I have shared this year as much as I have enjoyed making them.

As always if you have any questions or comments about this topic, please do reach out to me but, in the meantime, stay safe out there and I look forward the visiting with you all again next year.

Bye now.

The post 11/15/2021 Housing and Economic Update from Matthew Gardner appeared first on Windermere Real Estate.

10/25/2021 Housing and Economic Update from Matthew Gardner

This video is the latest in our Monday with Matthew series with Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner. Each month, he analyzes the most up-to-date U.S. housing data to keep you well-informed about what’s going on in the real estate market.  



Hello there!  I’m Windermere Real Estate’s Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, and welcome to the latest episode of Mondays with Matthew.


A few weeks ago, one of my viewers on You Tube sent me a note asking when I was expecting mortgage rates to start to rise and, if I believed that they were going to go up, how fast will they rise, and what impacts will higher rates have on home prices.

Well, I would like to thank this particular viewer for the question, and it’s going to be the topic of today’s video.

How Mortgage Rates Are Set

But before we start looking at the future of mortgage rates, I was speaking to some of our interns here at the office a while ago and one of them asked me to explain how mortgage rates are set and – because this is somewhat pertinent to today’s topic – I thought that I’d take just a minute or two to explain to you how this all works.

Of course, there are a lot of factors that impact the rate that a home buyer themselves will get, and they include credit quality, loan-to-value ratios and the like, but the base rate is set not by looking at a home buyer, but at the economy itself and, specifically, the bond market – and even more specifically, the interest rate of 10-year US treasuries.

Now, if you’re asking yourself why 30-year mortgages are based off 10-year bonds and not 30-year?  Well, that would be a good question, and this is the answer. You see we move, on average, every 10 years and that’s why!



Here is a chart showing the average yield – or interest rate – on 10-year treasury bills by month going back to 2010 in light blue, and the average 30-year mortgage rate in dark blue. I hope that you can see the tight relationship they have to each other.

Of course, there are times when bond yields can go down and mortgage rates rise, and vice-versa but, in general, they track each other pretty closely.

And if you’re wondering why the rates aren’t simply the same, well it’s because a treasury bond has no risk – as its backed by the US government – but there is some risk associated with a mortgage, so buyers of mortgage bonds expect a premium to be added because of this risk, and this has averaged just over 1.5% since the 30-year mortgage came into being back in the early ‘70’s.

Now, there are some people out there who think that the interest rate on 10-year treasuries doesn’t set mortgage rates, rather its better to track the interest paid on mortgage bonds and, although I do see why they might think  this, the base mortgage rate is actually set by treasury yields and the interest on mortgage bonds is set using that base and adjusting it to manage the prevailing risk tolerance that investors are prepared to accept so I believe that watching movements in the interest paid on 10-year treasuries is the right way to go.

And that, in essence, is how the 30-year mortgage rate is set.

The History of Mortgage Rates

If you are a regular viewer of these videos you will now that I like to start off with some context to the subject I am addressing and this chart will show the average rate for conforming 30-year fixed rate mortgages going back to their genesis in the early 1970’s.


Slide is titled Mortgage Rates over 4 Decades and the information is sourced from Freddie Mac Average Rate for 30-year fixed mortgages. Area graph shows a timeline from 1970 to 2021 on x-axis and percentage rates on the y-axis from 0% to 20% at the top. The colors of the graph splits these dates into decades. Overall the graph peaks in the early 1980 above 18% and slowly trends downward until 2020 where rates are the lowest ever.


Back in ‘71 rates were in the mid-7% range, rising to just under 10% in ‘74, before pulling back but, as you can clearly see, they started to spiral upward in ’77, ending the decade at almost 13% and if you’re wondering what led to this massive jump, well this was because the country had entered a period of high inflation.

In the ‘70s the country was pushed into a recession basically due to an oil embargo that led to the price of oil quadrupling and that led to a period of so-called stagflation which is when inflation rises, and economic activity slows.

And in the early ‘80’s we entered a period of so-called hyperinflation, as another oil embargo was took hold and the Fed was forced to step in and raised short-term rates which led rates along the yield curve to rise and this – of course – included 10-year treasuries which hit 15.3% in the fall of 1981 and that, as we have discussed, caused mortgage rates to hit an all-time high in October of 1981 at close to 18.5%. Rates then started to pull back and

In the 90’s, rates started to trend lower but jumped again in ’94 as the Fed tightened monetary policy given the significant growth that the country was seeing, but they started to pull back in the second half of the decade, falling to the mid-6’s before notching higher in ’99.

In the 2000’s, rates dropped to 5.3% in 2003 as the housing market boomed but, as we all know, it wasn’t all unicorns & rainbows in this decade of what was then – historically low rates.

The housing crash led the Fed to jump in by cutting interest rates, but they also started a massive purchase of mortgage bonds at very low interest rates as they were happy to take a low return as long as it stabilized the housing market. As a result of their efforts, mortgage rates fell almost a full percentage point, averaging just a hair above 5 % in 2009.

Riding the wave of low bank borrowing costs, mortgage rates entered the new decade around 4.7% and continued to fall steadily, dropping to the mid-3’s by 2012. But in 2013 you can see that rates headed higher. Why? Well, a big part of this has to do with some panic in the bond market, but we will get to that shortly.

Anyway, rates went up in 2014 before dropping to 3.85% in 2015 as the market calmed down.

They rose again after the 2016 presidential election, reaching their peak at the end of 2018 and start of 2019, but still ending the decade below 4%.

As for the current decade, well, it’s all been about COVID-19.


Slide is titled Weekly 30-year mortgage rates and the information is sources from Freddie Mac. Along the x-axis is dates from January 2020 to October 2021, and the y axis has percentages from 2% at the bottom and 4% at the top. 2 spots are highlighted, the first is in March 2020, a spike in mortgage rates at the beginning of the pandemic chaos. The other spike was in March 2021, due to a variety of factors explained in the main text and video.


To understand what’s happened over the past couple of years, we need to look at the weekly average rate and I am sure that you have noticed the first spike in the graph.

And it was totally due to the Coronavirus which created an unprecedented situation for all rates (not just mortgages, but US Treasuries and everything else).

You see, investors were panicking during the early stages of the pandemic, not just because the country – essentially – shut down for a brief period, but there were rumors about a thing called forbearance, and investors were panicking that they would not get paid for the mortgage bonds they held, and they did what we all do when we get worried about the economy and, specifically, our investments. They get out of their investment positions and into cash and that’s absolutely what they did, but I should add that I am not talking about them stashing dollars under the mattress.  No, they moved into cash positions in financial markets, which are the most liquid, nimble place an investor in the US can be.

And with a lot of institutions and individuals getting out of bonds and not many buyers out there, what happened to rates? That’s right, they rose to attract buyers and rise they did. So much so, in fact, that on a single day in March of 2020, mortgage bonds prices changed 5 times! Quite unprecedented.

Anyway, the Fed reverted to their old playbook and went on a massive bond buying spree with the biggest ever purchase of mortgage-backed securities on Thursday March 19 but, quite remarkably, they announced the very next day that they were going to buy even more.  How much more, you ask… Well, they decided to buy three times more than the record purchase they made just the day before!

And because of this, rates dropped dramatically and continued to pretty much head lower for the rest of the year and into early 2021.

But then the music stopped, as you can see in the second highlighted spike in the above graph.

You see, a special election was being held in Georgia and the bond market decided to take a conservative stance prior to the election and that led rates higher again. But the election wasn’t the only reason why rates rose.

You see, COVID 19 cases that were dropping, improved vaccine distribution appeared to be in place, there were several stronger than expected economic reports released, and progress on a fiscal stimulus package.  All of these factors led rates higher because, as you know, when economic news is positive, that is actually bad for bond yields as people move back into equities and out of bonds which is obviously bad for mortgage rates as bonds need to offer a higher interest rate to attract the few buyers that were out there.

Mortgage Rate Forecast

So that’s where we are today, but what of the future?


Slide titled “10-year bond forecast” sourced from Federal Reserve History & Windermere Economics Forecasts Quarterly Average. Bar chart shows the past 10-year US treasure Yield History quarterly from Q1 2020 to Q3 2021. These bars show a valley at the end of 2020 and trend upward in early 2021. The next set of bars show Windermere Economic’s forecast for the next 5 quarters, showing a steady increase each quarter until a high at 2% in Q4 2021.


Here is my forecast for 10-Year treasuries through the end of next year and you will see that I am looking for rates to rise gradually as we move into next year and this will lead mortgage rates to start notching higher as well.


Slide titled “Average 30-year rate history and forecast” sourced from Freddie Mac history & Windermere Economic Forecasts. Bar chart shows the history of the average 30-year mortgage rate from Q1 2020 to Q3 2021, which show a quick decrease from Q1 2020 to Q4 2020, and a steady plateau in 2021. Windermere Economics forecasts a steady increase starting Q4 2021 until Q4 2022, ending at 3.81%.


And here is my forecast for mortgage rates. Although they should move higher, I am still not seeing rates break above 4% until 2023 at the earliest and – even as they start to increase – I really don’t see it as a major deterrent to home buyers.

But before you start to say that this is only one person’s forecast and it could be wrong, lets look at my forecast compared to some of my industry colleagues.


Slide titled “ and Industry Colleagues Mostly Agree.” Bar chart shows the forecasts of Fannie Mae, National Association of Realtors, Wells Fargo, Freddie Mac, and Mortgage Brokers Association compared to Windermere Economic’s forecast.


As you can see, we are all in a pretty tight range when it comes to forecasting the average rate this year and next.

The bottom line is that although rates will rise, they will remain very competitive when compared to historic averages and the upward trend in rates is unlikely to have any significant impact on prices. That said, many markets are already having an affordability crisis and rising rates will certainly act as an additional headwind to price growth; however, it would take a significantly greater increase in rates to negatively impact prices.

Well, I hope that you have found this month’s discussion to be interesting. As always if you have any questions or comments about this topic, please do reach out to me but, in the meantime, stay safe out there and I look forward the visiting with you all again, next month.

Bye now!

The post 10/25/2021 Housing and Economic Update from Matthew Gardner appeared first on Windermere Real Estate.

10 Predictions for the 2021 Housing Market by Windermere’s Chief Economist


1. Economic Growth Will Pick up – But Not Until the Summer

As you are all aware, the job recovery has slowed significantly over the past few months and the December number – which saw employment levels actually drop by 140,000 jobs – was really quite appalling.

But… as bad as the numbers were last month, I am still expecting to see solid employment gains this year.

That said, I don’t see significant improvement until the vaccine starts to be distributed widely AND a majority of us choose to take it.

And when we get to that point – likely in the second half of this year – look for a lot more jobs to be added across the country, but employment levels will rise for a reason that most people aren’t thinking about, and it’s because I believe that the public – as they feel more comfortable going out – will start
to spend again.

In fact, it’s my forecast that spending will rise very significantly later this year and that will give a much-needed boost to the economy and the job market.

You see, we haven’t been spending our hard-earned dollars at normal levels for almost a year now and, quite frankly, the cash that we have been hoarding since the pandemic started is starting to burn a hole in our pockets.

So, my number 1 prediction is that we will see significant economic growth– and job gains – this year, but that most of the growth will come in the second half of 2021


2. The Move to the Suburbs is Real – But Don’t Get Carried Away! Looking now at the housing market, there’s been a lot of talk about a COVID-19 induced flight away from cities and into the countryside.

Well, the numbers don’t lie – there have certainly been more interest from buyers looking at markets outside of our core metros and this – obviously – is a function of the work-from-home phenomenon that I believe is not a flash in the pan, rather it is real and will be in place for a long time, if not forever.

But there is a bit of a wrinkle in this theory. In as much as we are certainly seeing suburban flight from markets like New York and San Francisco, the same can’t be said for much of the rest of the country.

In fact, according to a study recently published by Lending Tree, the percentage of owners who moved out of the top 50 largest metro areas in the country in 2020 was just 2.2% – now this is up from 1.9% in 2019 – but it’s hardly the tsunami that many had anticipated. And it’s also worth mentioning that some of the markets within Windermere’s footprint actually saw a net increase of migrating homeowners and not a drop. Examples of this include Denver which saw the number of households moving in up by 3.6% in 2020; Portland was up by 3.4%; Seattle by 3.3%; and Sacramento saw an in-migration rise by 2.9%. Although some households will move because work from home allows them to relocate to cheaper markets, it doesn’t mean that we are all headed out to the wild blue yonder.

In fact, I believe that – even though a good number of households will move – many will stay within striking distance of their workplaces, and I say this because I expect the work from home concept to be one where we work part-time from our homes, and part-time at our offices.

My number 2 forecast is that although people will move away from some of our core cities this year, many will still stay in the same region as work from home will not be a full-time situation for a majority of workers.

3. Not all Apartment Markets are Created Equal

The apartment market has been hit very hard by COVID-19 with rising vacancy rates putting significant downward pressure on rents in many large markets such as Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, and New York but guess what? We are actually seeing rents still rising in many smaller cities and these include Boise, Fresno, and Tucson, Arizona.

And this move away from expensive apartment markets is occurring for several reasons not least of which is – again – work from home, but it’s also due to an increasing number of renters turning into home buyers, and it’s also because the rent premium for being “close to the action” in major cities has faded and, because of this, I see previously overlooked suburbs and
small metros benefitting from growing demand.

2021 will be a tough year for many landlords in larger cities not just for the reasons I have already mentioned, but also because we are bringing on over 400,000 new apartment units across the country this year and many new developments are in these larger cities.

Number three forecast – Apartment owners in pricy markets will continue to suffer in 2021, but smaller markets will perform rather well and – after many years of being overlooked – I am also forecasting those apartment developers will start to turn their attention toward suburban markets and away from many of these larger cities. We haven’t seen that in over a decade.

4. The Luxury Housing Market Will Continue to Perform Very Well

One of the sectors that really performed far better than anyone – including me – had anticipated in 2020 was the luxury housing market, and I expect this sector to be very robust again this year and the reason for this, primarily, will be interest rates. Jumbo mortgage rates, which saw a spike at the start of the pandemic, have since dropped significantly and this is benefitting buyers of luxury housing.

Buyers of luxury housing will be very active this year and I see many focusing on some secondary markets – for value reasons – but I still expect that the classic luxury markets, like the Hamptons for example, will also do very well.

Other markets where the luxury sector will outperform are Miami – but this will be mainly due to tax changes in New York City driving owners to relocate – and I’m also watching Southern California and predict that luxury homes down there will also outperform this year.

One more thing I would mention is that I also expect that, as the country starts to reopen post-COVID, we will see a rebound in foreign buyers as well so keep an eye on that too.

Forecast number 4 – the luxury market will be more robust in 2021 than many had anticipated.

5. Cities will Start to Pay More Attention to Zoning (at Long Last!)

Many of you will be more than aware of my ongoing concerns regarding housing affordability. Now, we have seen some cities like Minneapolis, and even some States – and here I’m talking about Oregon – start implementing significant zoning changes to allow for more new home development in their markets which is impressive, but it certainly isn’t happening everywhere.

However, I believe that this year we will – at long last – start to see more attention from legislators when it comes to increasing the supply of land for residential construction and many will do this by adjusting current zoning policies to allow more land on which to build.

So why this new focus? Well, their attention will be driven by worries that high housing costs in their own markets may lead businesses to start to look at cheaper areas and – possibly – move away from their current locations, and other businesses that are thinking about expanding into new markets – well, they will be increasingly thoughtful about how housing costs in expansion markets will impact how much they have to pay their new employees.

You see, we know that almost every jurisdiction across the country is suffering from significant shortfalls in revenue and, because of this, legislators will have to start focusing on attracting new businesses – and retaining as many businesses as possible – in order to help replenish their coffers.

Forecast Number 5 – Although it won’t happen overnight, I am hopeful that discussions around zoning changes will start to pick up some steam this year.

6. Adaptive Reuse Will Gain More Traction

Over the past several months, many of you have asked me whether we will see office buildings converted to residential uses as there will be fewer workers occupying offices. Well, I am sticking to my belief that the cost of conversion and the layout of office buildings (primarily due to core depths, lack of plumbing penetration, and the like) just don’t lend themselves to conversion to residential uses – well, that is unless you buy them at bankruptcy prices!

That said, I am expecting to see other building types that may be better suited for conversion into either single residential use or a mix of uses, start to become attractive to developers.

And what are these other product types, you ask? Well, likely unsurprising to you is that I am looking at hotels – which are going to continue to be hard hit for, in my opinion, years… and retail malls – both strip as well as regional.

You see, we are already seeing more hotels – mainly inns and motels – be listed for sale as they are just not providing adequate cash flow and I expect
that some, but not all, may become ripe for conversion into residential uses.

As far as malls are concerned, look for more interest in the conversion of regional malls into mixed-use projects, but strip malls may get rezoned into single residential uses.

Number 6 – developers will start to pay more attention to the reuse of existing buildings in addition to ground-up construction.


7. What’s important in a post-COVID-19 home?

The pandemic has started to change what we are looking for in a home and it’s actually very interesting to see what is now becoming important to buyers. We know that work from home is real, but I see households moving not just because housing is relatively cheap further out, but many will look at their own homes – even if they are on the fence about moving – and realize that it’s just not set up for working remotely on a semi-permanent, or permanent, basis.

How many people do you know who have spent the past several months working from their dining room tables? I’m one!

But I also expect to see sellers who may not have an office in their homes, create dedicated spaces for an office set up to attract buyers or, where they just can’t do that, they will, at a minimum, create a dedicated Zoom space before listing their homes for sale!

I am also forecasting that you will also see new construction housing reflect these changes with builders better aligning their product with new consumer preferences and that demand for new homes will rise in 2021 as builders address these new requirements from buyers.

People want more space today because they are using their homes more and I already see builders addressing this with the average new home size rising last year following several years where new homes were actually getting smaller.

Also, when it comes to new construction, open floor plans — once a must — well they will be replaced too thanks to COVID-19 and buyers wanting more room separation.

And finally, I expect buyers who are looking to move a lot further out to become far more interested in markets that have high-speed internet access. Many of us take it for granted, but buyers will start to list this as a requirement, rather than an option – again possibly limiting moves too far out into the country.

Forecast Number 7 – Home preferences are changing – builders are already adapting, and owners of existing homes will have to do what they can to meet these new requirements.


8. Worries About Forbearance are Overblown.

Since last spring, a question that I have fielded probably more than any other, has revolved around the topic of forbearance.

The GSE’s have extended the forbearance program to the end of March so some of the pressure has been removed, but there are a lot of people who fear that – when forbearance expires – we will see a veritable tsunami of foreclosed homes come online and this massive increase in supply will lead to all homes seeing values drop.

Well, it won’t happen, and here’s why.

First off, the number of homes in forbearance is already down by 43% from its May peak. Even though it is true that the pace of the drop in the number of homes in the program has slowed, the trend is still headed in the right direction.

Yes, there are still 2.7 million homes in the program, but I believe that, as owners start to get back to work again, many will be able to either refinance their loans or work with their lenders to extend the term of their mortgages in order to make up missed payments and most will not end up in foreclosure.

I would also add many owners in the program – if they just can’t get back on track – will sell in order to keep the equity that they have built over the last few years and, in most areas, there will be enough buyer demand and they will be able to get out from under forbearance by selling and paying off the mortgage and missed payments that way.

Of course, we will see foreclosures rise this year, but I just don’t see the majority of owners in forbearance be forced into foreclosure and that will limit the downside risk to the housing market.

That said, I am a little more worried by condominium owners who are in forbearance as the supply of these homes is already on the rise and this is causing prices to soften relative to single-family homes.

This is not a phenomenon spread broadly across the country, but many markets are seeing condo price growth slow and some – here I am looking specifically at Queens in New York, Suffolk County in Boston, and in San Francisco County – are seeing real price declines and I do expect to see a greater share of condos end up in foreclosure, but a far smaller share of single-family housing will suffer the same fate.

And I must add that not all market areas are created equal. Today, total delinquency rates are very high in states like Mississippi, Louisiana, New York & Oklahoma, but here in the western US they are significantly lower.

Interestingly, when I looked at Windermere’s footprint, I am delighted to report that the States with the lowest rate of non-performing mortgage include Idaho, here in Washington State, Colorado, Oregon, and Montana.

So forecast number 8 – I do not anticipate a wave of foreclosures following the end of forbearance, and that the foreclosures that do occur will have a limited impact on the broader ownership housing market.


9. Mortgage Rates Will Rise – But Don’t Worry

Rates for 30-year conforming mortgages have broken below all-time lows 16 times since the pandemic started. Really remarkable with the average 30-year rate at the time of recording this video standing at 2.65% and rates down by over a full percentage point over the past year and that, naturally, has allowed prices to continue rising at above-average rates, but going forward I just don’t see them dropping much more, and I believe that we have, at least for now, reached a floor when it comes to rates.

Without getting too academic, the reason I say this is that mortgage rates track the interest rate on 10-year treasuries – or at least they should – but that relationship broke back in February – because of the pandemic. However, treasury yields have started to rise again, and that relationship is now back in line which tells me that rates are unlikely to drop much further – all things being equal.

Prediction number 9 – mortgage rates are unlikely to drop much more, but don’t anticipate them rising too much with this year averaging around 3.1%. Still very competitive.


10. US Home Sales Will Rise Significantly, but Price Growth Will Moderate

Finally, I just have to talk about home sales and prices even if I did cover this in my last forecast. Given all the factors I have already talked already, we will see more demand from buyers this year, and I also expect to see listings actually increase as people look to relocate, and this will lead sales in 2021 to rise to a level we haven’t seen since 2006!

And big players in the housing market as far as buyers are concerned will be renters turning into home buyers and I would add that we could see first-time buyers make up an even bigger share of the market if the Biden Administrations goal to introduce a new first-time buyer tax credit gets enacted – but that is certainly not a given.

Overall, existing home sales will rise by 7.7% in 2021 to around 6.2 million units.

As for prices, well I see them increasing again this year but, as I just mentioned, mortgage rates will start to move modestly higher and this will be a bit of a headwind to price growth, and affordability constraints will also start to slow appreciation in expensive housing markets. This year I am looking for average prices to rise by a relatively modest 4.1%.

My final forecast – home sales will rise significantly this year, but price growth will moderate.

The post 10 Predictions for the 2021 Housing Market by Windermere’s Chief Economist appeared first on Windermere Real Estate.

Matthew Gardner COVID-19 Housing & Economic Update: 01/25/2021


Hello there and welcome to the first Mondays with Matthew for 2021. It’s great to be back and I hope that you all had a fantastic holiday season and are getting into the new year groove.

Well, there’s a lot of data releases to talk about today so let’s get to it. First up is the latest National Association of Homebuilders report on builder confidence.



The index slipped to 83 from 86 but, for context, any reading above 50 means more builders view market conditions as favorable than poor.

Now, as you can see, following a very impressive recovery following the start of the pandemic, U.S. homebuilder confidence has trended lower for the past 2-months but, to tell you the truth, I really wasn’t surprised to see this.

Why wasn’t I surprised?

Well, its actually rather simple. Surging COVID-19 infections in concert with increasing material costs offset record low mortgage rates.

Builders are still grappling with supply-side constraints related to not just material costs, but a lack of affordable lots on which to build, and labor shortages that are all putting upward pressure on new home prices.

It’s very frustrating for builders these days as they see very significant demand for housing – driven by cheaper mortgages as well as an exodus from city centers to the suburbs and other low-density areas as companies allow employees to work from home because of the pandemic.

Oh! Talking of work-from-home, I did see a number put out by the Census Bureau in their Household Pulse Survey that suggested that about 38% of the labor force is now working at least part-time from home. That’s a massive number.


A line graph from the National Association of Home Builders showing the component trends in the U.S. Housing Market over the past two years.


Anyway, all of the component parts of the survey trended lower with the measure of sales expectations in the next six months falling two points to 83, the gauge of current sales conditions also dropping two points to 90, and the prospective buyers index falling by five points to 68.

I am not worried by this as, even at these levels, builders are still pretty bullish about the market, and I say this because of the next dataset I’m going to talk about – the housing permit and starts report.


A line graph showing the number of single-family home builder permits over the past two years.


Even if builders were suffering from worries regarding costs. Oh! I should add that their biggest issue as far as material costs are concerned are that lumber prices have risen by 52% versus a year ago!  Anyway, this increase in cost, as well as the other issues that we have just talked about didn’t translate into slowing activity when it came to permits and starts which both surged in December.

This chart shows the number of single-family permits issued across the country and the figure rose by 7.8% between November and December to an annual rate of 1.226 million units. That’s 30.4% higher than seen a year ago. And the fastest rate seen since 2007.


A line graph showing the number of single-family home starts over the past two years.


And looking now at housing starts, well they impressed too with a 12% month over month gain to an annual rate of 1.338 million units – and that’s 27.8% higher than a year ago.

I would also note that single-family starts have increased for eight straight months now. And – given the data that we have just looked at – it’s not surprising to see a very significant jump in the number of homes under construction.


A line graph showing the number of single family homes under construction over the past two years.


Now, in case you are a little confused by terminology, I should let you know that housing starts don’t actually relate to the number of homes being built. Starts refer to lots where a foundation has been poured, but it doesn’t mean that vertical construction has commenced.  For that we need to look at the under-construction data shown here.

And the number is pleasing.  In fact, the current level of ground-up construction is at its highest level since 2007.

The bottom line is that I expect to see the number of starts and homes under construction continue to rise, and new supply of homes is likely to take some of the upward price pressures off the resale market.

In fact, my current forecast is for new home sales to rise this year to about 988,000 units.

And talking of the resale market, I know that you have all been waiting for the December existing home sales numbers and they were released last Friday.


A line graph showing the inventory of home for sale in the U.S. over the past two years.


Before we get to the good stuff, I want to start with inventory – or lack of it!

Without seasonal adjustment, the number of homes for sale in December stood at just 1.07 million homes – and that’s down 23% year over year.

For perspective, that is the lowest number of homes on record and, at the current sales place, that represents a 1.9-month supply and that’s the lowest number seen since the National Association of Realtors began tracking this metric back in 1982.

So – we know that there is nothing to buy, but what’s happening to sales?

Look at this! Pandemic-driven demand for housing sent total 2020 home sales to the highest level since 2006.


A line graph showing the number of existing home sales in the U.S. over the past two years.


Closed sales of existing homes in December increased just 0.7% from November to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 6.76 million units and sales were 22% higher than seen in December of 2019.

As unexpected as a global pandemic was, so too was the reaction of homebuyers. After plummeting in March and April, sales suddenly began to climb.

Total year-end sales volume ended at 5.64 million units, and that was a number far higher than I – or anyone – was predicting before the pandemic started.

COVID-19 drove buyers desire for larger, suburban homes with dedicated spaces not just for working but for schooling as well.

And I will tell you that, in my opinion, sales could have been even higher if there were just more homes to buy! I wouldn’t have been surprised, again, if we had no inventory constraints – to have seen over 7 million sales occurring last year and that would have matched the all-time high seen in 2005.

But of course, there is a price to pay when you have so much demand, and so little supply.

That’s right.  Prices go up!


A bar graph showing the median sale price of existing homes in the U.S. over the past two years.


Low supply and very strong demand continued to heat home prices with the median price of an existing home sold in December coming in at $309,800, that’s a 12.9% increase when compared with December 2019 and the highest December median price on record. I would also add that this price is only marginally below the all-time high that was seen last October.

The surge in prices really has been quite remarkable, but I am not too surprised.  Yes, demand has risen significantly, and supply has not, but much of the growth was driven by mortgage rates that have dropped precipitously since the pandemic started and are over a full percentage point lower now than they were a year ago.

I would add that part of the reason we say such a sharp increase in price is that home sales were actually very strong at the high end of the market, where there are more homes for sale.

Sales of homes in the US priced below $100,000 were down 15% annually in December, while sales of homes priced between $500,000 and $750,000 were up 65% year over year, and sales of million-dollar-plus homes were up by a whopping 94% from a year ago.

A lot of the growth in the luxury market can also be attributed to mortgage rates with jumbo rates – that spiked with the pandemic – dropping significantly and this has led sales higher.

Breaking out the single-family market from condos, sales leapt in the early summer but leveled off in the fall because of – you guessed it – a lack of homes for sale and not a lack of demand.


A line graph showing single family home sales and a bar graph showing median price of single-family home sales in the U.S. over the past two years.


In 2020, sales of single-family homes rose by 6.3% – a massive number that’s even more impressive given the fact that sales only rose by 0.5% in 2019.

And prices were, naturally on the rise too – increasing by 9.2% last year, and that’s the fastest rate we have seen since 2013, and that was when we were starting to recover from the housing bubble that burst causing home prices to collapse value buyers jumped in causing prices to rise significantly.

Looking now at condos, we see a somewhat similar picture with the annual rate of sales coming in at over 700,000 units but, interestingly, 2020 total condo sales were actually 0.3% lower than we saw in 2019.


A line graph showing condo and co-op sales in the U.S. and a bar graph showing their median sales price.


What is happening here is a drop in demand for urban multifamily units with buyers able to work remotely. And this is also reflected by lower price growth than we saw in the single-family market.

As we move forward, I am still positive about the multifamily arena, but we are already seeing softening in demand and price in some market across the nation and here I am directly referring to San Francisco here in the West, and New York and Boston back East.

In as much as we will continuing to see short-term demand and price issues in many urban markets, it doesn’t mean that the overall condo market is going to collapse.

In fact, I think that once we get back to “normal” we may well see demand increase again and, if we see prices start to drop, I expect demand to rise even further as buyers who had previously been priced out of many of these large cities see that they can now afford to buy.

So, there you have it. My take on the January housing related data releases.

As always, if you have any questions or comments about the topics I have discussed today, feel free to reach out – I am only an e-mail away!

In the meantime, thank you for watching, stay safe out there, and I look forward to visiting with you again, next month.

Bye now.

The post Matthew Gardner COVID-19 Housing & Economic Update: 01/25/2021 appeared first on Windermere Real Estate.

Matthew Gardner COVID-19 Housing & Economic Update: 12/7/2020


Hello and welcome to this rather special episode of Mondays with Matthew. I’m Windermere Real Estate’s Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner.


Now, if you wonder what’s special about this particular episode, well the answer is twofold.


Firstly, I started these videos at the onset of the COVID-19 epidemic back in March and this is the 35th episode of Mondays with Matthew – where has the time gone?  Anyway, it will be the last one for this year and I wanted to take just a moment to thank all of you for taking time out of your busy schedules to watch my videos. It makes this economist very happy to think that you are still getting value out of my musings.


But there’s another reason that I am excited and it’s because, after many, many late nights poring over spreadsheets, I am now ready to share my 2021 US housing forecast with you so, without further ado, let’s get to it!



I’m starting off with my mortgage rate forecast.


As you will all be very aware, we have spent the entire year watching mortgage rates break record lows almost every week which, along with other factors, has helped drive housing demand significantly higher, but how low can rates go?


Well, my forecast suggests that rates will likely bottom out in the current quarter but that said, I do not anticipate them rising much as we move through 2021.


Economists' Forecasts are in a Fairly Tight Range


Now, I always like to see how my forecasts compare to others, so I spoke with a few housing economists across the country to see where they were regarding rates, and – as you can see – we are all in a pretty tight range for next year. I will tell you that my friends over at Fannie Mae were pretty defensive about their very optimistic forecast – I guess that we will see.


And looking further out – where my crystal ball fogs over just a little – the brave souls who are putting out forecasts for 2022 are showing rates not moving much higher even then, with Fannie Mae at an average of 2.9%, Wells Fargo at 3.1% and the Mortgage Bankers Association a little higher at 3.6%.


The bottom line here is that we are all pretty confident that although rates will start to rise, the increase will be modest, and I personally don’t see it impacting housing demand at all.


Yields Should Rise Next Year


And to explain why we will see rates rise, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages are pretty directly correlated with the yield on 10-year treasuries, and you can see here that my forecast shows these rising – albeit modestly – next year and, naturally if this occurs, rates will follow.


But there are 2 reasons that might stop rates rising – at least by too much, even if Treasury yields do head higher.  First is the COVID-19 vaccine. You see, if it takes longer to distribute, or if we chose not to take it, then the economy could take another dip and, if that happens, treasury yields will likely pull back, and rates could drop again. But I remain hopeful that this will not be the case.


And second is the Fed.  As long as they continue to buy mortgage-backed securities, rates are actually insulated from rising treasury yields.


Home Sales Will Grow Significantly Next Year


OK – on to sales, and here I am specifically looking at existing homes – I will address new homes shortly.


My forecast is for sales this year to have risen by 3.9%, but sales in 2021 should be up by 6.9%, and that’s a level we haven’t seen since 2006.


But in order for sales to rise to this extent, we need more inventory, and I do expect to see more listings next year and it will likely be, at least partially, due to COVID-19 with some household’s new ability to work from home removing the need to live close to their offices.  But there will be others who will move simply because their current homes just aren’t set up for remote working.


Although I see a lot of homeowners moving due to work-from-home I believe that a lot of them will not move that far away.  You see, the theory that we will all be working from home full-time is – in my opinion – likely overblown – and I would contend that a lot of them will end up blending their workweek with some days at home and some days at their offices and, if I am correct, I see many households still staying within reasonable proximity of their workplaces.


Prices Will Also Rise - But at a Slower Rate


Turning our attention now to sale prices, well this year has been very impressive so far and we should see sale prices in 2020 ending up 7.4% higher than we saw in 2019. Now, this is quite remarkable, and I say this because I took a look at the 2020 forecast, I put out last year and I was forecasting price growth closer to 4% than 7%.


But COVID-19 changed all that.  Mortgage rates dropped, households decided for several reasons to move and, in concert with a historically low level of homes available to buy, prices have risen significantly.


Now – and as I have said for years – there must always be a relationship between incomes and home prices, and mortgage rates dropping can only allow prices to rise by so much.


And, along with other factors, it’s partly due to affordability issues that I see prices rising by a more modest 4.1% in 2021.


New Home Starts Will Also Grow


OK – looking now at the new home market – and for the purposes of this discussion I am just looking at the single-family market – so far this year we have seen a significant jump in new home sales and this very robust demand has encouraged builders to start construction of more homes and my forecast for single-family housing starts shows them rising by 8% this year, but next year I’m seeing starts up by a very significant 16.4%.


This is good news for several reasons, the biggest of which is that more new construction will add to supply and that should take some of the demand and price pressure off the resale market.


New Home Sales Will Jump Next Year


And with more starts, I expect to see sales rising with an increase of 21.5% this year and a further 18.7% in 2021. Notably, this will put new home sales at a level again that we haven’t seen since 2006.


But I do have one concern regarding the new home market, and my worry is all about cost.


Builders want to do what they do best, and that’s build homes, but they have to reconcile the costs to build a home, which are extremely high today, with the prices that would-be buyers can afford.


Now I see them managing this issue by looking to areas where land is cheaper and where there is still demand from buyers who, as we just talked about, are now looking at markets further away from major job centers.


The bottom line is that the new construction market will see very solid gains next year.


And finally, it would be remiss of me if I weren’t to address the one thing that is troubling a lot of brokers – and their clients –and that’s forbearance.


Homes in Forbearance are Significant, But Don't Worry Me


Although we saw a modest uptick in active forbearance plans earlier last month, I think it’s important to put things in perspective.


Despite small increases in the number of homes we saw entering the program, the number of active forbearances is still down by 8% (or 246,000 homes) from the end of October.


In total, as of November 30, there are 2.76 million homeowners in active forbearance plans and that represents approximately 5.2% of all mortgages but again, for perspective, the number of owners in forbearance is down by almost 2 million from the peak back in May – that’s a drop of 42%.


So, let’s talk about this for a bit.


As is human nature, there are some out there predicting that the housing market is going to crash again purely because of the number of owners in forbearance – all 2.76 million of them –will be foreclosed on when forbearance ends next spring, and this flood of foreclosed homes will lead to a spike in supply and this will lead prices to drop in a manner similar to 2008.


I get the theory, and I guess that at face value you might say that it seems plausible, but is it?


Although there’s no getting around the fact that foreclosures will rise next year as forbearance terms end, will it really be that dramatic?I think not.


There are several reasons why I’m not overly pessimistic about this. Although I see foreclosures rising next year, I actually expect the numbers to be very mild when compared to the carnage we saw between 2008 and 2010.


Why do I think this? Well, the housing bubble burst for very different reasons than we are currently experiencing. Back then there was a frenzy of reckless lending, irresponsible borrowing, and the unbridled speculation that did nothing more than set the housing market up for a crash. And crash it did. Home prices collapsed, and millions lost their homes.


But, back in March of this year – when COVID-19 really kicked in – homeowners were actually in a very good place.  Credit standards were still very tight, down payments were significant, and the housing market, along with the economy as a whole, was extremely healthy and that’s the difference.


The COVID-19 pandemic has primarily hit renters, but it has impacted a lot of homeowners too and, as much as I am very sorry to say that we will see a rise in mortgage defaults and foreclosures but as the housing market muscles its way through the current economic downturn, I see foreclosures forming more of a trickle rather than a flood.


And, to support this, my colleagues over at ATTOM Data Solutions are currently forecasting more than 200,000 homeowners are likely to default next year but, if there is a longer-term Coronavirus related slowdown in the economy, the foreclosure count could get as high as 500,000 homes.


But as dramatic as their projections may seem, it’s worth noting a few things.


One. During the Great Recession, foreclosure filings spiked with 1.65 million American homes going into foreclosure in the first half of 2010, but this is well above the most pessimistic forecasts for foreclosures next year and even if defaults rise dramatically, they’ll still come in well below the levels we saw following the bursting of the housing bubble.


Two.  As I talked about earlier, home prices have risen steadily since 2012 and homeowners have built up large reserves of equity. This is the total opposite of the situation we saw in 2008.


And it’s because home values have been rising, a lot of borrowers in forbearance will be able to escape foreclosure by simply selling – we know that there is more than enough demand and they will sell to make sure that they get the equity out of their homes rather than to potentially lose it because of foreclosure.


Third. Lenders really have no stomach for a repeat of the foreclosure crisis we saw back in 2008.


Today, I am seeing lenders positioning themselves to use a more-cooperative, less-punitive approach to delinquent borrowers and that they will do a better job of keeping people in homes.


And finally.  Many, but not all, of the owners in forbearance, will not enter foreclosure because they will be able to catch up on their past-due amounts by paying more each month and some may be allowed to add the past-due amount to the end of the mortgage by lengthening its term.


The bottom line is that the housing market, and homeowners, are in a much better position today than they were back in the bubble days. Homeowners today have far more options to avoid foreclosure, and equity is surely helping to keep many afloat. Put it this way, even if today’s rate of foreclosures doubles, it will still only hit a mark that’s more in line with a historically normalized range.


Ultimately, I’m not concerned that we will see the housing market collapse because of forbearance.


And finally, a few more nuggets to think about.


Even if we ignore concerns over forbearance, there are still some talking about a housing bubble purely because prices have risen so rapidly over the past several years but I, along with my colleagues, just don’t see it.  It is true that prices have been rising at above-average rates, but fundamentals are still in place.  As I mentioned earlier, borrowers are well qualified, and they have solid equity in their homes.


But, as I have shown you, price growth is set to slow and I think that, because of this slowdown in price increases, there will surely be some homeowners who will think that the market has collapsed just because real estate agents aren’t telling them what they want to hear as far as the value of their home is concerned. What they need to understand is that the market isn’t collapsing, it’s just normalizing.


Sellers have had the upper hand for a very long time now, and many may have forgotten what a normal housing market looks like.


In the early days of the pandemic, it is true that buyers did gravitate toward the suburbs and I know this because 57% of buyers who bought between April and June of this year chose suburban locations and this compares with 50% before the pandemic. But it’s hardly the exodus from cities that some had speculated, and I would also note that there was even a small uptick in urban home purchases in that 3-month period – 12% before the pandemic, and 14% after. Meanwhile, sales actually fell a little in small towns and rural areas in the same timeframe, so I do not anticipate a massive move to the countryside.


Yes!  You’ve heard this from me for a long time now. First-time buyers will be a major force again this year – and for years to come – brokers need to figure out how to work with them. Their numbers are only going to grow.


Condos – Hmmm this is interesting.  Although I don’t see the condo market collapsing across the country – although I do see significant issues in markets like Manhattan and San Francisco – I am seeing inventory levels rise fairly significantly as opposed to single-family homes for sale whose numbers continues to drop but, for now, there still appears to be demand as sales are higher too. My concern is really in regard to the urban condominium market. You see, for many, the primary reasons to buy a downtown condo are twofold.  Convenient access to work, and lifestyle.


Well, some won’t have to live close to work if they are working a majority – or all – of the time from home and secondly, if we lose some of the lifestyle reasons to live in a city – restaurants, retail, and the like, well that takes away some of the rationale behind buying a downtown condo.


There’s no need to panic yet but I will be watching urban condo markets to see if demand continues to keep up with rising supply.  If it doesn’t, then we may well see prices softening.


And finally, well done, you made it through 2020!


So, there you have it.  My 2021 US housing forecast.


I really hope that you have found this video – and the ones I have published before – of use to you and your clients.


As always, take care out there, and remember to wear your masks.


In all seriousness though, it really has been an honor to speak with you all this year and, hopefully, we will meet again –in person this time – at some point next year.

So, between now and then, stay safe, have a wonderful holiday, and here’s to a great 2021 for all of us.


Bye now.

The post Matthew Gardner COVID-19 Housing & Economic Update: 12/7/2020 appeared first on Windermere Real Estate.