Rising demand by buyers, a bottoming out of mortgage rates and a rebounding national economy should push up the dollar value of homes in most markets nationwide, perhaps by 2 to 3 percentage points above the rate of inflation for the rest of 1986.
That's the consensus of a national panel of 20 top real estate appraisers, major independent real estate brokers and economists interviewed recently.
How the national forecast translates into an appreciation rate for your particular home and community depends on several key factors:If you're in one of this year's 10 to 15 "hot spot" metropolitan markets, you might see significantly higher appreciation than the national average. Monthly data assembled by Washington-based economist Glen Crellin, of the National Association of Realtors, indicates that although the majority of high gainers are still in the Northeast, other areas appear poised for above-average jumps.
Traditionally quiet markets -- Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, for instance -- are likely to outperform the national norm, according to Crellin. Major markets in southern California, Arizona and Hawaii have "burned off" much of the price excesses accumulated during the binges of the late 1970s and are rising for the first time in several years.
The Washington area, the New Jersey suburbs of New York City and the large metropolitan markets of New England might see some of the highest average home-price inflations, Crellin said. Rapidly growing local economies, surging stock-market profits and higher-than-average income gains are propellants for these markets, he said. The 3-percentage-point declines in mortgage rates since fall are beginning to buoy prices nationwide, according to appraisers and economists. But they might be countered by other factors in any particular market.
For example, in metropolitan Chicago, lower mortgage rates have attracted droves of new buyers. But they also have triggered a flood of resale home listings, according to Joyce Burke, president of First United Realtors, the largest independent brokerage firm in the market, with $1 billion in annual home sales.
The supply of available houses for sale, in other words, hasn't begun dropping, despite lower money rates and a relatively vigorous sales volume.
"We're looking at 5 percent average annual appreciation at the moment," said Burke, "and that won't change much unless the inventory of available properties takes a big drop."
Minneapolis-St. Paul valuation expert Timothy S. Forsythe cautions home-sellers not to look for gains above 3 to 4 percent "at least until mortgage rates start heading up again."
Consumer demand won't begin to make a heavy dent in the supply of homes until "buyers start to get worried that they're missing out on the bottom of the mortgage-money price curve," Forsythe said. "That's when they'll make their move into the market" and potentially knock selling prices beyond current appreciation levels.
Metropolitan markets heavily influenced by 1986's two important economic depressants -- agricultural failures and plummeting energy prices -- will be underachievers on the home-value front. Oklahoma City, Okla.; Houston, Des Moines, Denver and the Dakotas will be among the softest markets in the nation this year, real estate economists and brokers said.
A factor many appraisers would prefer not to discuss at length is the major change under way in the standards imposed on their own profession. These changes could act as an unseen price depressant in your market in 1986, despite low mortgage rates and high sales volume.
Newly toughened appraisal rules by national and local lending institutions have "made us considerably more conservative in valuations," said the head of one large midwestern appraisal firm. A house that might have been appraised at $110,000 early last year might be appraised at $108,000 this year, "because we have to document comparables area housing prices like we never did before," including full sets of photographs.
"Given a choice of high end or low end, we're going low," he added. Lower appraisals, in turn, mean lower maximum mortgage amounts and a downward constraint on sales prices.
What's the net effect of factors like these on your home's value this spring and summer? Probably the key point to bear in mind: Lower borrowing costs alone will not turn your property into an inflationary money machine reminiscent of the late 1970s.
Above-average local employment growth, in-migration and household income gains are likely to be far more important, particularly in view of a chastened approach to pricing by appraisers.