As the housing market navigates through unprecedented challenges, the spotlight is on 2024 as a potential turning point. Insights from Realtor.com® reveal a nuanced outlook, with Chief Economist Danielle Hale suggesting incremental progress rather than a seismic shift.
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Will 2024 Be a Better Time to Buy a House?
The prospect of a slight dip in home prices in 2024 offers a glimmer of hope for aspiring homeowners. Projections hint at a modest decline of approximately 1.7%, providing some respite. While not a drastic drop, this adjustment could allow incomes to catch up with the relentless surge in prices witnessed over the past decade. Hale emphasizes, “A break after relentless home price increases—a leap forward for buyers' mental health.”
Mortgage Rates: Navigating Market Volatility
The housing market, akin to an intense MMA fight, has been grappling with the impact of soaring mortgage rates. Over the past three years, rates surged from the high 2% to the mid-7% range. While there is optimism for a slight improvement, Realtor.com's economic team forecasts an average rate of about 6.8% for the year, easing to around 6.5% by year's end. Despite the improvement, these rates remain significantly higher than the 4% historical average.
Hale underscores the challenge: “Rising mortgage rates have priced many homebuyers out of the market, amplifying the hurdle posed by record-high home prices.”
Housing Shortage: Challenges Ahead for Homebuyers in 2024
As we look ahead to the upcoming year, a major hurdle for prospective homebuyers looms larger than ever—the aggravating scarcity of available homes for sale. This predicament, compounded by financial constraints, is set to become an even more pressing issue, creating a conundrum for those eager to make a purchase.
The dilemma sets in as the housing market becomes marginally more affordable, yet potential buyers may still find their choices severely limited. A vicious, self-perpetuating cycle emerges: homeowners, unable to find suitable properties, opt to stay in their current residences, further diminishing the options available to other potential buyers.
Projections indicate a significant 14% drop in the number of existing homes for sale in 2024 compared to the current year. This decline, excluding new constructions, underscores the gravity of the situation.
High mortgage rates play a pivotal role in discouraging homeowners from listing their properties. With about two-thirds of homeowners having mortgage rates below 4%, and over 90% enjoying rates below 6%, the incentive to sell diminishes. The prospect of purchasing a new home at a higher rate presents a financial challenge that many are unwilling to undertake.
Moves to list homes and purchase new ones typically stem from necessity, driven by changes in family situations like welcoming a new baby, navigating a divorce, or relocating for a job or retirement, as noted by Hale.
Amidst these challenges, a glimmer of hope emerges from the construction sector. Builders are anticipated to increase construction by approximately 0.4%, resulting in just under a million new homes. Encouragingly, these numbers are not factored into the predicted housing inventory drop by Realtor.com. Builders are likely to sweeten the deal with incentives such as mortgage rate buy-downs, providing some relief to prospective buyers.
Chief Economist Danielle Hale points out, “When buyers embark on their home search, they can expect to encounter an increasing number of new homes on the market.”
Projections for Home Sales in 2024
With homeowners reluctant to list properties and buyers grappling with affordability challenges, home sales are projected to remain low. Realtor.com predicts a marginal increase of 0.1% in existing-home sales, totaling around 4.07 million homes sold in 2024. This pales in comparison to the annual sales figures of 5.28 million between 2013 and 2019, underscoring the formidable challenges faced by the market.
While uncertainties loom, the intricacies of the 2024 housing market unfold. Will home prices drop? The answers lie in the complex interplay of factors, from mortgage rates to housing shortages, shaping the landscape. Stay tuned for a comprehensive exploration of what the future holds.