If only we could foretell the future, we’d have bought Apple stock at the start of the pandemic.
If you’re thinking about buying, selling or investing in residential real estate this year, keep these trends in mind:
Trend 1: iBuyers are evolving.
iBuyers are real estate companies that allow consumers to basically buy and sell on demand. They will buy your home for a price that their algorithms say is correct, allowing you the freedom of making a non-contingent or cash-like offer at will.
But over time, some iBuyers have shifted their business models. Knock began as a traditional iBuyer, but over the past two years has evolved into a mortgage lender. The company will preapprove you for a mortgage and provide you with a bridge loan for the down payment, allowing you to buy your new home first. Then, they will help you get your home prepped and staged to sell. And, if necessary, they’ll buy your home if no one else will — something Knock CEO/co-founder Sean Black said has happened only a handful of times.
Of course, just because you call yourself a real estate technology company, also known as “prop-tech,” doesn’t mean you always get it right. Zillow shut down its iBuyer division, Zillow Offers, at the beginning of November, acknowledging a potential loss of hundreds of millions of dollars, and said it was cutting its workforce by 25 percent.
Trend 2: Interest rates are rising (this time, for real).
Since the Great Recession, mortgage industry observers and economists have annually foretold the rising of interest rates. In 2010, 30-year mortgage interest rates were around 4.69 percent but fell to the mid-3 percent range by 2012, according to Rocket Mortgage, and mostly stayed there. At the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019, mortgage rates briefly hit 5.34 percent.
They quickly declined, and in January 2020, mortgage rates were back at around 3.7 percent. And then the novel coronavirus hit, the Federal Reserve Bank lowered the federal funds rate to between 0 and 0.25 percent, and mortgage interest rates dropped below 3 percent.
What happens now? Lawrence Yun, the chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, and Mike Fratantoni, the chief economist of the Mortgage Bankers Association, agree that interest rates will rise. And Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell’s pronouncement that the Federal Reserve will look to raise the federal funds rate three times in 2022, while phasing out its bond-buying program, makes it likely that mortgage rates will rise.
If omicron (and future coronavirus variants) does not require more federal intervention, Yun expects to see 30-year mortgage interest rates of 3.5 percent in 2022. In the meantime, lenders will be laying off more loan officers and other staffers as refinancings dwindle. They’re hoping the purchase mortgage market stays red hot.
Trend 3: Millennial and Gen Z home buyers may find buying is unaffordable.
If interest rates rise much, millennials and Gen Z home buyers will find it increasingly unaffordable to purchase first homes. And millennials account for the majority of home buyers at the moment.
U.S. home values appreciated at an annual rate of 18 percent in October, according to CoreLogic, which was the highest level recorded in the 45-year history of the index. If you were looking to buy a single-family house, those appreciated at a rate of 19.5 percent, another record high.
That sort of growth, coming on the back of several years of double-digit price appreciation, is unsustainable. Since home prices are closely tied to income, something has to change: Either people will have to earn more money, interest rates will have to stay low, or home prices will have to come down to get everything back in balance.
In the meantime, the United States is about 5.24 million homes short (rentals, townhouses, condos and single-family detached houses), and builders are focusing on higher-end developments. After all, if you’ll get the same profit out of a million-dollar house as in building three or four $250,000 homes, which would you choose?
In our next column, we’ll look at a few more real estate trends that are starting to bloom.
Ilyce Glink is the author of “100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask” (Fourth Edition). She is also the CEO of Best Money Moves, an app that employers provide to employees to measure and dial down financial stress. Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Contact them through her website, bestmoneymoves.com.