2019 Economic and Housing Forecast

What a year it has been for both the U.S. economy and the national housing market. After several years of above-average economic and home price growth, 2018 marked the start of a slowdown in the residential real estate market. As the year comes to a close, it’s time for me to dust off my crystal ball to see what we can expect in 2019.

The U.S. Economy

Despite the turbulence that the ongoing trade wars with China are causing, I still expect the U.S. economy to have one more year of relatively solid growth before we likely enter a recession in 2020. Yes, it’s the dreaded “R” word, but before you panic, there are some things to bear in mind.

Firstly, any cyclical downturn will not be driven by housing.  Although it is almost impossible to predict exactly what will be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back”, I believe it will likely be caused by one of the following three things: an ongoing trade war, the Federal Reserve raising interest rates too quickly, or excessive corporate debt levels. That said, we still have another year of solid growth ahead of us, so I think it’s more important to focus on 2019 for now.

The U.S. Housing Market

Existing Home Sales

This paper is being written well before the year-end numbers come out, but I expect 2018 home sales will be about 3.5% lower than the prior year. Sales started to slow last spring as we breached affordability limits and more homes came on the market.  In 2019, I anticipate that home sales will rebound modestly and rise by 1.9% to a little over 5.4 million units.

Existing Home Prices

We will likely end 2018 with a median home price of about $260,000 – up 5.4% from 2017.  In 2019 I expect prices to continue rising, but at a slower rate as we move toward a more balanced housing market. I’m forecasting the median home price to increase by 4.4% as rising mortgage rates continue to act as a headwind to home price growth.

New Home Sales

In a somewhat similar manner to existing home sales, new home sales started to slow in the spring of 2018, but the overall trend has been positive since 2011. I expect that to continue in 2019 with sales increasing by 6.9% to 695,000 units – the highest level seen since 2007.

That being said, the level of new construction remains well below the long-term average. Builders continue to struggle with land, labor, and material costs, and this is an issue that is not likely to be solved in 2019. Furthermore, these constraints are forcing developers to primarily build higher-priced homes, which does little to meet the substantial demand by first-time buyers.

Mortgage Rates

In last year’s forecast I suggested that 5% interest rates would be a 2019 story, not a 2018 story. This prediction has proven accurate with the average 30-year conforming rates measured at 4.87% in November, and highly unlikely to breach the 5% barrier before the end of the year.

In 2019, I expect interest rates to continue trending higher, but we may see periods of modest contraction or leveling.  We will likely end the year with the 30-year fixed rate at around 5.7%, which means that 6% interest rates are more apt to be a 2020 story.

I also believe that non-conforming (or jumbo) rates will remain remarkably competitive. Banks appear to be comfortable with the risk and ultimately, the return, that this product offers, so expect jumbo loan yields to track conforming loans quite closely.

Conclusions

There are still voices out there that seem to suggest the housing market is headed for calamity and that another housing bubble is forming, or in some cases, is already deflating.  In all the data that I review, I just don’t see this happening. Credit quality for new mortgage holders remains very high and the median down payment (as a percentage of home price) is at its highest level since 2004.

That is not to say that there aren’t several markets around the country that are overpriced, but just because a market is overvalued, does not mean that a bubble is in place. It simply means that forward price growth in these markets will be lower to allow income levels to rise sufficiently.

Finally, if there is a big story for 2019, I believe it will be the ongoing resurgence of first-time buyers. While these buyers face challenges regarding student debt and the ability to save for a down payment, they are definitely on the comeback and likely to purchase more homes next year than any other buyer demographic.

Originally published on Inman News and the Windermere.com Blog.

Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has more than 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

Posted on January 10, 2019 at 5:59 pm
Sheri Putzke | Category: Real Estate Trends, Statistics | Tagged , ,

Local Market Update – December 2018

The real estate market continued to improve for buyers in November.  Interest rates dropped slightly, price increases slowed and inventory soared. It’s important to note that inventory increases, while significant, are being compared to the record low supply of last year. We’re still far short of the inventory needed for a truly balanced market, however buyers have greater choice and less competition than they’ve had in years. Sellers who price their home according to current market conditions continue to see strong interest. Heading into the holiday season, there’s something for everyone to celebrate.

Eastside

>>>Click image to view full report.

The Eastside economy continues to be very strong. Heavy investment in commercial construction from companies such as Vulcan boost expectations that the area will continue to thrive.  The median price of a single-family home in November hit $885,000 on the Eastside. Although an increase of 4 percent from a year ago, home prices have remained steady since this fall. With continued demand and only 2.4 months of inventory, the market has a long way to go to becoming balanced.

King County

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Price increases continued to slow in King County. The median single-family home price was $643,913 in November, an increase of 2 percent over a year ago. South King County, where the most affordable homes in the county are located, saw significantly greater increases compared to a year ago. North King County also posted greater increases than the county overall. Inventory has skyrocketed as the number of homes for sale in King County more than doubled year-over-year. While that’s good news for buyers, there is only 2.1 months of available inventory in the county, slightly down from October and not nearly enough to meet demand.

Seattle

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The median price of a single-family home in Seattle was $760,000 in November. This is up 3 percent from a year ago and slightly up from October. Inventory jumped 177 percent year-over-year however, at just two months of supply, the Seattle area has the tightest inventory in King County. With the city’s strong economy and lifestyle appeal, that’s not expected to change any time soon. Forbes recently named Seattle as the best place for business and careers in the nation. U.S. News & World Report ranked the University of Washington among the top ten universities in the world with Money Magazine rating Seattle the #5 Best Big City to Live In.

Snohomish County

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Inventory in Snohomish County continued to climb, surging 88 percent in November as compared to a year ago. That said, the area has fewer homes for sale than King County with just 1.8 months of inventory. This is still far short of the four to six months of supply that is considered a balanced market. The median price of a single-family home sold in November was up 6 percent from last year to $470,000, virtually unchanged from October.

This post originally appeared on the WindermereEastside.com blog.

Posted on December 13, 2018 at 7:01 pm
Sheri Putzke | Category: Local Market News, Statistics | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Local Market Update – October 2018

It appears that balance is slowly returning to the local housing market. Home price growth slowed in September. Inventory continued to climb, but is still far short of the four to six months that indicate a normal market. Homes are staying on the market longer, giving buyers the breathing room to make the right choice for their situation.  With our region’s healthy job growth, and demand still exceeding supply, it’s likely to take some time to move to a fully balanced market.

Eastside

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Home price increases moderated into the single-digits in September. The median price of a single-family home on the Eastside was up 4 percent from the same time last year to $890,0000 but down from a median price of $935,000 in August. Inventory increased significantly and price drops jumped. While the market is softening, the recent expanded presence of Google and Facebook on the Eastside means demand should stay strong.  In addition, the area’s excellent school system continues to be a large draw for buyers both locally and internationally.

King County

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Inventory was up 68 percent year-over-year in King County due to a higher number of sellers listing their homes and fewer sales.  There is now more than two months of inventory in the county, a number we haven’t seen in nearly four years. Despite the increase, there is a long way to go to reach the four to six months of inventory that is considered balanced.  In September, the median price of a single-family home was $668,000; an increase of 7 percent from the same time last year and virtually unchanged from August.

Seattle

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Inventory in Seattle surged in September from a year ago. Only San Jose, CA saw the number of homes for sale rise faster than Seattle last month. The median home price in September was $775,000. Up slightly from the $760,000 median price in August and a 7 percent increase from last year. The double-digit price growth of past years appear to be waning and overzealous sellers who listed their homes at unrealistically high prices have been forced to reduce them. Bidding wars have declined and the typical well-priced house is now selling right at asking price.

Snohomish County

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While not nearly as dramatic as the case in King County, inventory in Snohomish County was up 40 percent. The area has just over two months of inventory with home prices moderating. The median price of a single-family home increased 8 percent over a year ago to $485,000. That’s down from the $492,000 median reached in August and $26,000 less than the peak of the market reached in spring.

This post originally appeared on the WindermereEastside.com Blog.

Posted on October 8, 2018 at 11:39 pm
Sheri Putzke | Category: Statistics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Local Market Update – September

The number of homes for sale in August increased dramatically over the same time a year ago. This is the result of a moderate increase in new listings and a much slower pace of sales. Homes are staying on the market longer, giving buyers more choices and more time to make an informed decision. While home prices are up compared to a year ago, the rate of increase was in the single digits rather than the double-digit surges of past months. It’s still a seller’s market, but sellers need to have realistic expectations about pricing their homes as the market softens.

Eastside

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The median price of a single-family home on the Eastside was up nearly 10 percent from the same time last year to $935,000. Home prices have declined each month from the all-time high of $977,759 set in June. Inventory increased 73 percent over last August. With supply soaring and home prices moderating, sellers need to work with their broker to price their home to meet the current market conditions. A year ago 47 percent of the homes on the Eastside sold for over list price. This August that number was down to 29 percent.

King County

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King County experienced yet another flood of inventory with the number of homes for sale jumping 65 percent over the previous year. Despite the growth, the county has just 1.9 months of inventory and remains a seller-oriented market. The market has slowed but it remains fast-paced, with 62 percent of the properties here selling in fewer than 15 days. While home prices were up 3 percent from a year ago, the median price of $669,000 represented the third straight month of declines from the record-high of $726,275 reached in May.

Seattle

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After leading the nation in home price growth for nearly two years, Seattle is finally cooling off. The median home price in August was $760,000, up just 4 percent from last year and down from the record $830,000 reached in May. Inventory soared in August, but the city still has just two months of supply, far short of the four to six months that is considered balanced. Bidding wars are becoming less common and price drops more common. Sellers must adjust their expectations to what appears to be a long waited moderating of the market.

Snohomish County

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Mirroring the market slowdown in King County, Snohomish County also experienced a cooling off in August. The median price of a single-family home was $492,000, up 8 percent from a year ago but down from the record high of $511,000 two months prior. Inventory increased nearly 30 percent, but at just 1.6 months of supply the market remains very tight and sales are brisk. Sixty percent of homes here sold within 15 days.

This post originally appeared on the WindermereEastside.com Blog.

Posted on September 12, 2018 at 9:30 pm
Sheri Putzke | Category: Local Market News, Real Estate, Real Estate Trends, Statistics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , ,

What’s Really Happening in the Housing Market?

Our housing market is finally cooling a bit, from scorching hot to slightly-less-sweltering. While some alarmists are talking bubble or impending crisis, the statistics tell a different story. The market does appear to be shifting, and that’s good news! The steep price increases of the past few years are not sustainable, and also risk pricing buyers out of the market altogether.

Where The Market Is Today

  • Inventory is up, but still far short of demand. Despite a considerable increase in inventory, King County has just six weeks of supply. Four to six months of inventory is what is considered a balanced market, and we’re far short of that.
  • Homes are staying on the market a bit longer. New listings have increased in the past few months, but the increase in inventory is primarily due to homes staying on the market longer. With buyers accustomed to homes being snapped up in days, “longer” is a relative term. Homes in King County are taking an average of 15 days to sell.
  • Prices appear to be moderating. While home prices are up compared to a year ago, the rate of increase is in the single digits rather than the double-digit surges of past months. Prices are down 4 percent from the record high reached this spring.

What This Means For The Housing Market

  • The shift towards slower, consistent appreciation will result in a healthier market.
  • Buyers have more choices and more time to make an informed decision.
  • It’s still a seller’s market, but sellers need to have realistic expectations about pricing their homes as the market softens.
  • More inventory is still needed to meet demand.

Whether you’re thinking about buying or selling, it’s important to have the most current information about the market. Our Windermere brokers can provide you with statistics about today’s market and answer any questions you may have.

This post originally appeared on the Windermere Eastside Blog.

Posted on September 5, 2018 at 8:46 pm
Sheri Putzke | Category: Local Market News, Real Estate, Real Estate Trends, Statistics | Tagged , , , , , ,

The Eastside Market Review – Second Quarter

The Eastside Market Review is now available for the second quarter of 2018.

Read the full report online by clicking the image below.

EastsideMarketReview_Q2_2018_Page_01

This post originally appeared on the WindermereEastside.com Blog. 

Posted on August 15, 2018 at 10:33 pm
Sheri Putzke | Category: Local Market News, Statistics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Local Market Update – June 2018

Last month brought some long-awaited, positive news for buyers with May posting the most new listings in over a decade. Despite the uptick in inventory, most homes are selling in less than a month. Prices haven’t been impacted either, with the majority of the region continuing to experience double-digit home price increases.

Eastside

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The median home price on the Eastside hit an all-time high of $960, 000 in May; a 10 percent gain over the same time last year. While there were a third more homes for sale in May than a year ago, the area still had only about a month of available inventory. Three to six months is considered a balanced market. Redmond, a city with a population of 64,000, currently has only 51 single-family homes on the market.

King County

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First the good news: Those looking to buy a home in King County in May had almost 1,000 more homes to choose from compared to the previous month. The bad news: That boost in inventory did little to moderate home prices. The median price for a single-family home jumped 15 percent to $726,275, up slightly from the record high set in April.

Seattle

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A strong economy and desirable lifestyle have kept Seattle a leading destination for job-seekers. The ever-increasing demand for housing has sapped supply and sent prices soaring. For 19 months Seattle has led the nation in rising home prices.  May saw the city set yet another record, with the median home price jumping 14 percent to $830,000.

Snohomish County

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Soaring prices in King County combined with rising interest rates make Snohomish County an affordable alternative for those willing to extend their commute time.  The typical home cost $500,000 in May, an increase of 11 percent over the previous year, and down very slightly from last month.

This post originally appeared on the WindermereEastside.com Blog.

Posted on June 11, 2018 at 6:11 pm
Sheri Putzke | Category: Local Market News, Statistics | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Local Market Update – May 2018

Another month, another record. Despite a slight uptick in inventory that showed the highest level of active listings since last August, both King and Snohomish counties saw home prices in April hit all-time highs. There is less than one month of inventory available in both counties, far below the four to six months of supply that is considered “balanced.” As long as the severe shortage of homes remains, improving supply is unlikely to reverse rising prices.

Eastside

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With the median price on the Eastside hovering at just under $1 million, you’d expect a softening of the market. Instead, sales were strong at every price point. The median price of $943,000 was a slight dip from the record of $950,000, but up 7 percent from last April. That does show some price moderation. According to Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner, mortgage rates are expected to increase modestly in the coming months, which he predicts should further moderate price growth.

King County

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After setting a record in March, the median price of a single-family home in King County hit a new high of $725,000 in April. Prices soared 16 percent over a year ago, an increase of $100,000. The rising cost of both rental and home prices is taking its toll. According to a new study, 68 percent of King County residents rate the quality of life here as high but 35 percent said the cost of living is the worst problem in the county.

Seattle

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The median cost of a single-family home in Seattle was $819,000, unchanged from March but up 13 percent from a year ago. There doesn’t appear to be any price relief in the near future. The booming job market in Seattle continues to fuel housing demand that far exceeds supply. As a result, home prices are predicted to rise at above-average rates in the coming year.

Snohomish County

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In Snohomish County, the median price of a single-family home exceeded half a million dollars, setting a new record for the region. The typical home cost of $505,975 in April was up 15 percent over the same time last year. Despite record-setting prices, the area continues to draw buyers seeking to find more affordable housing options. Of the 100,000+ people who leave King County each year, the majority move to Snohomish County.

This post originally appeared on the WindermereEastside.com Blog.

Posted on May 11, 2018 at 12:22 am
Sheri Putzke | Category: Statistics | Tagged , , , , , ,

Local Market Update – March 2017

The local real estate market set new home price records in many parts of the region in February. Prices here have grown faster than anywhere else in the country for the last 16 months in a row. Demand remains high and inventory very low. Brokers are hoping the normal seasonal increase in listings this spring will help give buyers some relief.

Eastside

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With home prices soaring on the Eastside, it’s not a matter of whether the median price will exceed a million dollar, but when. February brought the market very close to that milestone. The median price of a single-family home increased 14 percent to a record $950,000 on the Eastside, surpassing the previous peak recorded in December.

King County

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The red-hot job market in King County continues to outpace nearly every area in the nation. Well-paid workers looking to buy close to city centers have fueled a growing competition for a shrinking number of homes. That demand boosted the median price of a single-family home up 16 percent over a year ago to $649,950.

Seattle

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The median price of a single-family home in Seattle hit a new high of $777,000 in February, $20,000 more than the previous record set in January and up 14 percent from the same time last year. Despite the sharp increase in prices, multiple offers have become the norm for most properties. It remains to be seen if recent interest rate hikes will have a moderating effect on home values.

Snohomish County

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After several months of moderating growth, Snohomish County set a new record for home prices in February. The median price of a single-family homes jumped 18 percent to an all-time high of $485,000. Inventory is down from a year ago, with less than a month’s supply of homes available for sale.

If you are considering buying a home in today’s market, here are three things to consider:

  1. Make sure you can afford the payments.
  2. Choose a location that will appeal to you long-term.
  3. Be committed to living there for a minimum of five to seven years.

This post originally appeared on the WindermereEastside.com blog.

Posted on March 12, 2018 at 9:04 pm
Sheri Putzke | Category: Local Market News, Statistics | Tagged , , , ,

The Gardner Report – Fourth Quarter 2017

Economic Overview

The Washington State economy added 104,600 new jobs over the past 12 months. This impressive growth rate of 3.1% is well above the national rate of 1.4%. Interestingly, the slowdown we saw through most of the second half of the year reversed in the fall, and we actually saw more robust employment growth.

Growth continues to be broad-based, with expansion in all major job sectors other than aerospace due to a slowdown at Boeing.

With job creation, the state unemployment rate stands at 4.5%, essentially indicating that the state is close to full employment. Additionally, all counties contained within this report show unemployment rates below where they were a year ago.

I expect continued economic expansion in Washington State in 2018; however, we are likely to see a modest slowdown, which is to be expected at this stage in the business cycle.

Home Sales Activity

  • There were 22,325 home sales during the final quarter of 2017. This is an increase of 3.7% over the same period in 2016.
  • Jefferson County saw sales rise the fastest relative to fourth quarter of 2016, with an impressive increase of 22.8%. Six other counties saw double-digit gains in sales. A lack of listings impacted King and Skagit Counties, where sales fell.
  • Housing inventory was down by 16.2% when compared to the fourth quarter of 2016, and down by 17.3% from last quarter. This isn’t terribly surprising since we typically see a slowdown as we enter the winter months. Pending home sales rose by 4.1% over the third quarter of 2017, suggesting that closings in the first quarter of 2018 should be robust.
  • The takeaway from this data is that listings remain at very low levels and, unfortunately, I don’t expect to see substantial increases in 2018. The region is likely to remain somewhat starved for inventory for the foreseeable future.

Annual change in home sales

Home Prices

  • Because of low inventory in the fall of 2017, price growth was well above long-term averages across Western Washington. Year-over-year, average prices rose 12% to $466,726.
  • Economic vitality in the region is leading to a demand for housing that far exceeds supply. Given the relative lack of newly constructed homes—something that is unlikely to change any time soon—there will continue to be pressure on the resale market. This means home prices will rise at above-average rates in 2018.
  • Compared to the same period a year ago, price growth was most pronounced in Lewis County, where home prices were 18.8% higher than a year ago. Eleven additional counties experienced double-digit price growth as well.
  • Mortgage rates in the fourth quarter rose very modestly, but remained below the four percent barrier. Although I anticipate rates will rise in 2018, the pace will be modest. My current forecast predicts an average 30-year rate of 4.4% in 2018—still remarkably low when compared to historic averages.

Days on Market

  • The average number of days it took to sell a home in the fourth quarter dropped by eight days, compared to the same quarter of 2016.
  • King County continues to be the tightest market in Western Washington, with homes taking an average of 21 days to sell. Every county in the region saw the length of time it took to sell a home either drop or remain static relative to the same period a year ago.
  • Last quarter, it took an average of 50 days to sell a home. This is down from 58 days in the fourth quarter of 2016, but up by 7 days from the third quarter of 2017.
  • As mentioned earlier in this report, I expect inventory levels to rise modestly, which should lead to an increase in the average time it takes to sell a house. That said, with homes selling in less than two months on average, the market is nowhere near balanced.

Average Days On Market

Conclusions

Market SpeedometerThis speedometer reflects the state of the region’s housing market using housing inventory, price gains, home sales, interest rates, and larger economic factors. For the fourth quarter of 2017, I have left the needle at the same point as third quarter. Price growth remains robust even as sales activity slowed. 2018 is setting itself up to be another very good year for housing.

 

Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, specializing in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has more than 30 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.

 

This article originally appeared on the Windermere.com blog.

Posted on January 29, 2018 at 12:17 pm
Sheri Putzke | Category: Statistics | Tagged , , , , , , , ,