Stimulus cheques help explain house price rebound

After beginning to slow at the turn of the year, house price growth has since got a second wind. We suspect the key driver behind that resurgence was the arrival of the third round of stimulus cheques, which drove up the saving rate and helped boost first-time buyer down payments by 12% between February and May. But with no more cheques on the horizon and the saving rate stabilising that support for house prices will dissipate, supporting our call that annual house price growth will soon peak.
Matthew Pointon Senior Property Economist
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US Housing Market Chart Book

Rising mortgage rates will help cool booming prices

Mortgage rates are on the rise and we expect they will see further gains to end the year at around 3.5%. That, alongside relatively tight credit conditions, will help cool rampant house price inflation. From close to 20% y/y in July, we expect a slowdown to 15% y/y by end-2021 and 3% by end-2022. Stretched affordability will also weigh on home sales, although the drop in first-time buyers has at least arrested the fall in inventory. After four months of consecutive falls single-family building permits were unchanged in August. But with lumber prices rising again and shortages of other materials and labour, we don’t expect a strong rise over the remainder of the year. The lack of homes for sale and the reopening of cities have been positives for the rental sector. Vacancy rates are falling and rental growth is picking up, driving strong investor demand and pushing yields to record lows. We expect yields will stay low for the next year at least.

15 October 2021

US Housing Market Update

Will sales of condos continue to outperform?

Sales of condos have been on tear in recent months, with their share in total existing home sales reaching a 14-year high in June. The reopening of cities helps explain that development, and condo sales have also benefitted from comparatively favourable inventory and pricing. With house prices not set to decline and mortgage rates on the rise, demand for relatively affordable condos is set remain high.

7 October 2021

US Housing Market Data Response

Mortgage Applications (Sep.)

Home purchase applications rose for the first time in six months in September, even as mortgage rates increased to a 14-week high by the end of the month. But we expect a further rise in mortgage rates to around 3.5% by the end of this year and, combined with soaring house prices and tight credit conditions, that will weigh on home purchase mortgage demand. We therefore expect home purchase applications will drift lower over the remainder of the year.

6 October 2021

More from Matthew Pointon

US Housing Market Update

New apartments will start to get larger soon

Apartments kept getting smaller in the second quarter of this year, with the median floor space of units falling to under 1,000 sq. ft., the lowest since records began in 1999. That trend seems at odds with rising demand for larger units to accommodate increased working from home. We suspect that dichotomy in part reflects lags in the development process, not helped by COVID-19, as well as surging steel prices. But with demand for bigger units here to stay, we don’t think it will be long before units start to get larger. We expect median floor size for multifamily starts will be back above 1,000 sq. ft. by the end of the year. In view of the wider interest, we are also sending this US Housing Update to clients of our US Commercial Property service

14 September 2021

US Housing Market Chart Book

Soaring prices and lack of supply weigh on activity

Mortgage rates have been stable at close to record lows since mid-July, but that hasn’t prevented a decline in housing demand. New home sales are down 28% from their peak last year and while existing home sales surprised on the upside in July, the pending index implies they will soon drop back. Soaring house prices, tight credit conditions and lack of inventory are weighing on buyer sentiment and sales. House price growth hit another record high in June, but with demand now easing we suspect it is approaching its peak. Indeed, a recent moderation in the size of home purchase mortgages points to an upcoming cooling in prices. Rental demand has bounced-back strongly, leading to rapidly tightening markets and accelerating rental growth. With the for-sale inventory set to remain tight, the outlook for rental demand is strong and that has spurred a swift recovery in apartment capital values and a boom in apartment starts.

9 September 2021

US Housing Market Update

How vulnerable are house prices to a rise in rates?

Our forecast for mortgage rates to rise to 4.2% by end-2023 will help slow house price gains, but we don’t think that increase will be enough to cause an outright fall in values. And with homes not particularly overvalued, inventory close to record lows and nearly all borrowers protected by fixed rates even a more substantial rise in interest rates is unlikely to cause a crash in values. For example, we think a surge in mortgage rates to 6% by end-2023 would only bring prices down by around 5% over the next 2½ years, taking values back to where they were at the start of 2021.

26 August 2021
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