The past two years have been a roller-coaster. There is no industry that has not been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and residential real estate is no different. 2021 shattered multiple records: home price growth, rent growth, inventory levels at all-time lows, etc. So, with everything that has been going on, what can we expect for 2022? Will this year be as full of surprise as 2020 and 2021 or should we expect a “return to normal”?
2021 was definitely a seller’s market. In fact, the number of homes for sale last spring hit the lowest level in over 40 years. As a result, bidding wars ensued and over 70% of homes were receiving multiple offers which resulted in sharp price increases. Home price growth between October 2020 and October 2021 reached 19%, an unsustainable level that surely won’t be repeated in 2022, right? Well let’s see.
First, demand is unlikely to back off much. The demographics are very positive for household formation with many millennials aging into their first-home buying years. Additionally, while mortgage rates have been rising (we will come back to this topic later) they are still at historically low and attractive levels. Because 2021 was a crazy year for homebuying, many people stayed on the sidelines and economists expect a lot of them will return to the market in 2022, driving demand for single family homes up. On the supply side, the picture again does not look very favorable for home buyers.
As of December 2021, there were only 1 million homes listed for sale in Zillow, down 18% from Dec 2020 which implies the housing market will be tighter this spring when compared to last year.
However, interest rates might turn into a headwind in 2022. The Fed is concerned about increasing inflation and as a result it is expected to increase interest rates several times in 2022. When interest rates go up so do mortgage rates. This month the 30-year mortgage rate hit 3.64%, which is significantly higher than the 2.65% rate in January 2021. Rising rates could price some out of the market and provide a relief for home price growth as demand slows down. However, on the short-term an increase in mortgages could cause home shoppers to try and participate in the market before rates continue to increase, a psychological phenomenon caused by the “FOMO” effect. When we put all of these factors together, what can we expect for 2022?
Daryl Fairweather of Redfin expects the 30-yr mortgage will end the year at 3.6%, roughly the same level where it is today. Other economists believe rates will be closer to 4.0%.
Given the current supply and demand situation, it seems that 2022 will be another year of record high prices. However, with mortgage rates already significantly higher than last year, it seems that price growth will somewhat decelerate from last year. In fact, most experts expect to see a mid-single digit increase in the median home price. Realtor.com expects a 3% increase in home prices, however given the strong start to the year Zillow forecasts home prices to increase by up to 18%. The NAHB forecasts a 6-8% increase in prices and the Mortgage Bankers Association believes that the 30-yr mortgage rate will reach 4.0%. Even with this higher mortgage rate, the MBA forecasts mortgage origination will increase by 9% but refinances will decrease by over 60%. The recent uptick in lumber prices could put additional pressure to home prices as the cost to homebuilders continues to stay elevated. We expect another year favorable for sellers and believe bidding wars will continue into 2022. If you are buyer, do your research ahead of time and be ready to move quickly. Consider partnering with companies that can turn your offer into an all-cash offer to make yourself more competitive. Alternatively, work with your lender and try to get approval before you bid so that your offer stands out from other financing-contingent offers. Be creative and make sure your agent is prepared to move fast and get ready for another fast-paced year!