Some would-be homebuyers are firing on a full-blown housing market crash as prices have grown far beyond what people can afford. “Crash asap, maybe one day I can have my own apartment,” pleaded one Twitter user. Another user tweeted: “Let’s hope the housing market crashes so people have a chance to start a family and own their own home.”
Like it or not, potential buyers are unlikely to repeat the collapse the country experienced from 2008 to 2014, when house prices fell by double digits from their 2007 peak.
Daryl Fairweather, chief economist at real estate brokerage Redfin, said prices “may come down a little bit, but I think the crash means more than a 10% drop in property values, which seems a little far-fetched right now. ”
Some forecasters expect house prices to fall by a few percent across the country over the next year or two, and sharply lower in some metropolitan areas. However, there is little consensus on which cities will see the biggest declines.
Whether you’re looking to buy your first home, or you already own one and are thinking about selling, here’s what falling home prices could mean for you.
Buyers may waver if prices fall
Say you want to buy a house and prices are falling in your city. You can’t help but wait. So why buy a home today when you think you can buy a similar home for less in a few months?
The problem with this ironclad logic is that you cannot predict when the price will bottom. If you wait too long, you’ll end up trying to buy as prices rise and competition increases. This strategy, known as market timing, is not desirable, said Odeta Kushi, deputy chief economist at First American Financial Corp.
“If you can find a home that fits your monthly payment budget and it’s a good time to buy it, go for it,” she said.
If you’re waiting for prices to come down, and that’s never going to happen, you might find that “the house you found a year ago, you really liked, you could afford it, but gave up, next year is more expensive, ‘ Kush said.
Since that’s human nature, you’ll probably try to time the market anyway. But hey, you’ve been warned.
Sellers’ concerns set bottom line below price
Homeowners’ reluctance to give up what they own may be holding back waiting for home prices to fall — and during the housing boom during the pandemic, homeowners have something they want to keep.
The first is inflated home values. Kushi called property prices a “sticky decline,” meaning sellers were reluctant to accept discounts unless they were desperate to sell. “If you don’t have to sell, just sit still?” she said.
Another thing homeowners insist on: low mortgage rates. Real estate analyst Ivy Zelman said in a July interview on the Macro Hive Podcast that 92% of homeowners have mortgage rates below 5% and half have rates below 3.5% through refinancing or just-in-time purchases.
Many of these homeowners will snuggle up with their low mortgage rates and vow never to leave.
“If you’re a homeowner now tied to a 2.6% or 2.7% mortgage rate, what’s your motivation to sell your home today and buy it at a higher mortgage rate?” First U.S. Chief Economist Mark Fleming said on the REconomy podcast. “Not much. You’re bound by interest rates.”
Business blogger Bill McBride said in his Calculated Risk newsletter that the phenomenon has seen signs of a “seller strike”. In an August survey of 25 housing markets, McBride found that new listings were down 10.6% year over year.
Homeowner tenacity has a profound effect on potential homebuyers: When homeowners turn their homes away, they reduce the number of properties available for purchase. Limited supply could keep prices from falling as buyers compete for meager offers.
When you owe more than the house is worth
Nearly 10 million existing properties have been sold since the start of 2021 in an era of rapid price growth. Falling home values mean recent homebuyers — those with a small down payment and not much equity to begin with — could end up with more debt than the home is worth. It’s called upside down. If you find yourself in this situation, you have a few options.
Keep the house, pay all your mortgages and wait for prices to pick up. This would be the most popular option, even for families that grew up at home.
If you flip the house, you will need to use your savings to pay off the entire loan balance, as well as real estate commissions and other fees.
What if you don’t have enough cash to pay off the mortgage amount? You can get permission from your lender to sell your home as a short sale. However, lenders can deny permission if you can afford the monthly home payment. This locks you into option 1, keeping the house and waiting until it’s worth more than you owe.
Borrowed equity decreased
Finally, there’s the issue of home equity loans and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs). These are second mortgages that allow you to borrow against your home equity. To qualify for both, you must have sufficient equity: at least 20%, or 15% in some cases.
A drop in home value could erase enough equity to get you below the 15% or 20% threshold to make you ineligible for a home equity loan or HELOC. Even if you get a HELOC up front, the lender may lower your credit limit later to bring it in line with your home’s value.
At the height of the housing boom during the pandemic, when prices rose more than 15% a year, few buyers were concerned that property prices might end up falling. This ebullient, competitive negligence is now being replaced by caution — what real estate economist Ali Wolff calls FOBATT, or the fear of buying at the top.
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