Is there a Difference Between a ‘Buyer’s Market’ and a ‘Market that’s Rapidly Getting Less Advantageous Towards Seller’s’?

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The vast majority of latest prognostications point to a shift in the housing market, in favor of buyers over sellers. It’s about time. America’s housing market has been brutal on homebuyer’s, renters, and those looking to lease in prime locations for years now. There is a lot of qualitative and quantitative analysis to suggest that despite rising rates, buyers currently have the advantage.

Realtor’s Weekly Housing Market: “The Four Big Bellwethers”

Realtor has a weekly column called “How’s the Housing Market This Week?”. Realtor’s real estate economists are some of the most trusted in the industry. Weekly, Realtor delivers the most up-to-date statistics on what they coined “the four big bellwethers of the housing market”. These include home prices, # of new listings, total days on market, and of course, mortgage rates (Dutton, Realtor).

“The housing market is resetting in a buyer-friendly direction,” notes Realtor Chief Economist Danielle Hale in her evaluation. We’d be remised if we didn’t note a “buyer-friendly direction” is certainly not the same as a true buyer’s market. While the same analysis notes the obvious, historic seller’s market that’s raged since COVID-19 began, it points out that the window for sellers is closing, rapidly. Below are the previously mentioned Realtor weekly housing trends, for week-end August 6th, 2022. – Weekly Housing Trends, August 6th, 2022

What jumps out to me are the top two statistics. A 15.5% median listing price increase, coupled with 8% fewer listing than the week before ( Hale has a unique and thought-provoking perspective on this phenomenon.

Is There Surprisingly Good News in a 15.5% Increase in Median Listing Price?

According to Hale, yes, this number is good news for prospective buyers. The last data from July 2022 shows a median nationwide listing price of $449,000. For the week ending August 6th, a 15.5% listing price increase means the new median was $518.595. While this marks the 34th straight week of double-digit price growth, Hale points out it’s also the “second consecutive week of deceleration” (Dutton, Realtor). The previous two weeks – at the end of July 2022 – median listing prices rose by 16.6% and 15.6%, respectively. This third ‘relatively temperate’ hike offers buyers hope home price growth will finally continue steadily dwindling.

“The improvement has been substantial”, confirms Hale. She’s just as quick to add, “buyers in today’s market may still face meaningful affordability challenges as the typical home listing price remains near a record high”. But there’s little long-term evidence to suggest sticker price is a major deterrent for buyers (Dutton, Realtor). Hale reaffirms, “Persistent [homebuyers] may still continue to find success”. She goes on to add, “Second quarter data showed that homeownership rates increased from a year ago, both overall and for nearly every age and racial and ethnic group”.

Given that homeownership rates have surged — amid rampant inflation, rising mortgage rates, and other deterrents — strongly signals that buyers who are willing to have some flexibility will ultimately win. Participants who are been willing to purchase somewhere they may not have considered pre-pandemic have largely become homebuyers. It’s a true testament to the lengths that homebuyers are willing to go today, provided sellers meet them halfway.

Are Sellers Undermining the ‘Buyer Friendly’ Market?

Anything positive for homebuyers is a negative for home sellers and of course, vice versa. Many sellers with properties on the market are panicking they ‘missed the mark’ by not closing a sale on their property during the COVID-19 real estate boom. For week-end July 30th, 2022, the number of new listings dropped by 8%, year-over-year (Dutton, Realtor).

“New listings fell from a year ago for a fourth week. This is looking more and more like sellers may be wary of current market conditions, which have shifted substantially, even though they remain quite favorable to sellers who have owned for just about any length of time.”

Danielle Hale, Chief Economist, Realtor

Hale appears to be hesitant to commit to buyer-friendly market conditions. However, she does definitively comment that conditions are becoming less and less favorable for sellers. The same message seems to be resonating across the board: if you’re a seller, the longer your property stays on the market, the worse-off your position will be.

“While overall inventory [of new and old listings] grew by 28% over this same week last year, the active listings count still trails its 2020 and 2019 levels by more than 15% and 45%, respectively. More improvement in active inventory is likely needed to bring balance, but the recent trend may be at risk if homeowner attitudes toward selling now continue to deteriorate.”

Danielle Hale, Chief Economist, Realtor

Once again, Hale seems to reemphasize the same underlying position. ‘We’re not in a pro-buyer’s market, we’re in a market that’s rapidly growing less favorable to sellers.’

Are Rising Mortgage Rates to Blame for Homebuyers not Rushing to Close a Deal?

The last question Realtor’s frequented market assessment addresses is why buyer’s aren’t rushing to close the deal. We are in a market that’s getting less and less favorable towards sellers, after all. What happens when we hit that market floor and conditions start to change against homebuyers. That has been the case – at a staggering rate – for well over two years now (Dutton, Realtor).

In July 2022, listings lingered on the market a mere 34 days before getting snapped up. That’s nearly half the time it took two years earlier (Dutton, Realtor). Conversely, after having entered August 2022, it seems homebuyers are pumping the breaks and not feeling in such a rush. Hale’s prediction? Expect more of the same. She stated, “We expect more slowing ahead as the housing market reset”. The question remains, why?

According to data provided by Freddie Mac, rising mortgage rates are a good place to start. For week-end August 11th, 2022, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate increased to 5.22%. That’s considered a significantly steep spike from the previous week’s 4.99% (Mortgage Rates, Freddie Mac). Realtor predicts the future will hinge on how large corporations will view the potentially looming recession.

“The big question for consumers is whether companies will over-react to the recession concerns and start trimming payrolls. A sharp pullback in hiring could have a direct impact on people’s ability to keep spending, especially with today’s high inflation.”

George Ratiu, Senior Economist, Realtor

Realtor ultimately winds up agreeing. Prospective homebuyers should take full advantage of this buyer-friendly market while it lasts (Dutton, Realtor).