The American housing market is in the midst of a major shift. After two years of stratospheric price increases, house prices have peaked and are on their way back down.
But what both home buyers and homeowners want to know is: How much lower will prices go?
The short answer: Prices will probably fall further, but not as much as they did during the housing bust. From the peak in 2006 to the trough in 2012, national home prices fell 27%, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices, which measure US home prices.
“It was different in 2008, 2009 because the price drop was because of a push from sellers,” said Jeff Tucker, senior economist at Zillow. “Because of foreclosures and short sales, there were many extremely motivated sellers who were willing to take a loss on their homes.”
Plus the housing crash came at a time when the inventory of homes for sale was four times higher than it is now. Current inventory remains significantly lower than pre-pandemic levels, which has increased competition for housing. And that keeps prices relatively strong.
“I would be surprised to see prices anywhere below where they were in 2019,” Tucker said. “There was some overheating in the housing market in 2021 through this spring which pushed prices higher than the fundamentals would support. Now they are coming down.”
With mortgage rates more than doubling since the start of this year, the calculations for a home buyer have changed considerably. The monthly mortgage principal and interest are up $930 from a year ago, a 73% increase, according to Black Knight, a mortgage data company.
When you factor in high mortgage rates, along with high home prices and wages that aren’t rising as fast, buying a home is less affordable now than it has been in decades, according to Black Knight.
But there could be relief in sight for buyers.
Economists at Goldman Sachs expect house prices to fall by around 5% to 10% from their peak in June.
Wells Fargo recently forecast that national median single-family home prices will decline 5.5% year-over-year by the end of 2023.
Wells Fargo economists project the median price for an existing single-family home to be $385,000 this year, up 7.8% from last year, but growth will be much smaller than the 19% year-over-year increase in 2021.
Economists expect the median home price to fall to $364,000, a decrease of 5.5% from this year. They predict prices will rebound and rise again in 2024, with the median price ticking up 3.3% to 376,000 by the end of 2024.
“The primary driver of the housing market correction thus far has been sharply higher mortgage rates,” the Wells Fargo researchers wrote. “If our Fed rate cut forecast is realized, mortgage rates will likely fall slightly, just as cooling inflationary pressures increase real income growth. A modest improvement in sales activity should then follow, which will revive house price growth towards 2024.”
Ultimately, how much prices fall will depend on where you live.
Unlike the surge in prices during the pandemic that sent home values in markets across the country soaring, the cooling will be more regional, Tucker said. The drops will be felt more deeply in places where there were bigger gains during the pandemic, many of them in the West and Sunbelt, including cities like Austin, Phoenix and Boise, he said.
“Nationally, we could see a 5% decline from the peak,” Tucker said. “But prices will fall more in the West, and there will be a smaller decline in the Southeast.”
In September, home prices fell 2.3% month-over-month in several pandemic hotspots, including Phoenix; Las Vegas, down 1.9% and Austin, down nearly 1%, according to Zillow.
And Boise, Idaho, where prices rose nearly 60% during the pandemic, is already seeing annual declines, with prices falling 3.9% year over year in September, according to Zillow.
“A number of metro areas, particularly in the West, will see some year-over-year price declines this spring,” Tucker said. “That will be the worst comparison period because that’s when many markets peaked.”