As U.S. home prices show signs of cooling and the Fed continues its aggressive rate hike campaign, one of America’s largest real estate groups is signaling market affordability will continue to put pressure on homebuyers this year.
“Affordability has certainly been a hot topic,” RE/MAX President and CEO Nick Bailey said in an exclusive interview on “The Claman Countdown” Tuesday. “If people are going to have a chance at better affordability, we need more product out there, and we’re not going to see that any time soon with new construction.”
Even though U.S. home prices fell for the seventh month in a row by 0.6% from December to January, mortgage rates have dampened consumer demand. The Federal Reserve has remained focused on its inflation reduction goals, lifting the benchmark federal funds rate nine consecutive times.
Interest and mortgage rates are likely to continue “bouncing up and down” as the Fed tries to tame decades-high inflation, Bailey noted.
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“We always have to keep in mind that mortgage rates are based on the 10-year Treasury, and that can fluctuate at a different rate than the short term. So what it means to buyers is, rates are going to bounce around, we believe. They have been over the last couple of quarters and we believe they will continue as the year progresses,” the CEO explained.
Bailey detailed other affordability solutions for homebuyers, such as considering a 15-year fixed mortgage or lower down payment and loan opportunities.
“The average homeowner in the U.S. lives in their home eight years and the median is 12.3,” he pointed out. “So in many cases, people are choosing this long-term, three-decade mortgage, but they may not need it. They can have an option at a lower rate.”
“Ninety percent of homeowners out there have an interest rate less than 5%. And of that, 50% of them are under 3.5% percent,” he continued to note. “And so until a life event like getting married, having another child, really has a forcing function on a different property, it’s going to be first-time homebuyers that stay at the forefront of these lower interest rate, more affordable-type products.”
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While market factors play an important role in housing affordability, Bailey again put the onus on new home construction. According to the Census Bureau, housing starts in February 2023 were down 18.4% year-over-year.
National Association of Home Builders CEO Jerry Howard affirmed this trend, telling FOX Business’ Neil Cavuto on Thursday that construction companies aren’t seeing the “uptick in demand” that the industry was expecting this spring.
“What we’re really seeing right now, I think, is a very cautious housing market because no one knows what’s going on in the banking sector,” Howard said. “And until that gets clarified, I think you’re going to see builders being a little bit leery about going forward.”
“New construction can’t come out of the ground fast enough. We have less than a million homes on the market, and so it really comes down to supply,” the RE/MAX CEO said. “And because of the move up, buyers being comfortable with their rates, inventory is going to continue to be tight and affordability is going to continue to be an issue this year.”
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