Is the US Real Estate Market Finally Starting to Cool Off?

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According to recent trends witnessed primarily in California, but largely nationwide, the supply in the housing market appears to be growing, while the demand is shrinking. This is what experts are counting on leading to a “cool off” period in real estate prices. “Today, week after week, we see more and more inventory come on the market and demand is down,” said broker Justin Itzen. He added, “Buyers have more to choose from, they can be more selective” (Moscufo, ABC News). Taylor Marr, chief economist of Redfin, echoed a very similar narrative. Marr made a distinguishment between expensive coastal markets and cheaper, rural housing markets. As Itzen’s remarks indicated, Marr concurs coastal cities located in California, New York, etc. will witness most of the impact.

But that still leaves the larger question unanswered; are we looking at a nationwide real estate cooling period? According to an investors report Redfin released at the very start of August 2022, the share of home listings that have been on the market for more than 30 days has increased more than 12% from 2021. Due to inflationary effects, interest rates for average mortgages were between 5-6% in July 2022, compared to 2-3% July 2021. Inflation and rising prices (or rates) go hand-in-hand, but this increase is steep enough to leave tangible impressions. With more listings, dropping prices, and definite near future housing market uncertainty, we’re hopefully finally entering a buyer’s market.

Importantly, Iesha McTier-Whyte, a broker selling middle to high-end homes in Newark, NJ advised she’s seen the same pattern. However, she doesn’t view it as a bad thing. “It’s nice to see [the market] cool down and kind of go back to the basics,” McTier-Whyte said. “What we experienced last year was like no other”. Itzen’s partner, Gio Helou, remarked “buyers are [now] able to actually go through the natural home buying process”. Assumingely, Helou meant that buyer’s now have the luxury of options. They no longer have to make the same kind of extraordinary sacrifices to simply purchase a family home.

At one point, “homes were going within days for way over the asking price,” said Tim Sherman, a prospective homebuyer. When he and his wife found a home in Huntington Beach, CA, they began considering liquidating investments to purchase it. Not only “15% over the asking price,” commented Sherman, “but it was now over the market estimates of what the property was worth” (Moscufo, ABC News).

The end to Sherman’s story really ties into the underlying assertion of this article. That first house fell through, but he and his wife did wind up purchasing a home. As soon as they saw the photos their broker sent them, they put in an immediate offer. Their former home in Dallas then sold in just one day (Moscufo, ABC News). If that’s any indication of the market dynamics moving forward, expect lower prices, more supply, and increased quality listings. A true win-win, both for individual homeowners and for real estate investors. As for the critics who continue to say there’s somewhat of a 2008-like “housing bubble” getting ready to pop, there’s little quantitative evidence to support the theory. Yet even the critics concede:

“There is now a huge supply of new houses for sale, in all stages of construction, over 9 months’ supply in total, according to the Census Bureau. In terms of the number of houses, by June [2022], there were 463,000 new single-family houses at all stages of construction for sale, the highest since May 2008, and up by over 30%, from a year ago.”

-Wolf Richter, The Wolf Street Report

Their perspective is investors need to remain patient, as market conditions are continuing to return to their equilibrium. After what we’ve witnessed with the COVID-19 global pandemic, anything is possible, but conceptually, our economy isn’t close to the same state it was in heading into the 2008 financial collapse. We have far more restrictions on speculative investments, strict leverage ratios, mandatory reporting requirements, etc. The lessons of 2008 essentially taught us how to avoid widespread economic fragility when a significant market starts looking vulnerable. Additionally, the credit worthiness, financial disclosures, and ability to repay have all tightened considerably for buyers. Time will only tell whether we are in the midst of a “cooling off” period, or if we’re about to witness about bubble bursting. From our research and observations, we see it as more of a buyer’s market than a ‘fragile’ housing market.