Rates Are Trending In The Right Direction And Could Drop Below 6% By The End Of The Year

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According to Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.28% This Week in Real Estate. That is down 4 basis points from prior week, marking the fourth consecutive week of declines. “Though week-to-week rate changes can move up and down, the longer-term prospect on rates is for further improvement, with a clear possibility of rates going under 6% by the year’s end,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. Home prices remain steady largely a result of record-low inventory levels for a few years now. Realtor.com reports that new listings in March were down 20.1% compared to March 2022 and down 26.9% compared to the pre-pandemic level in March 2019. Furthermore, active listings in March 2023 are down 49.5% compared to March 2019. Below are a few newsworthy events from the first week of April that influence our business: 

Mortgage Rates Fall For The Fourth Week in a Row. Homebuyers benefited from another week of falling mortgage rates, with the average rate dropping for the fourth week in a row, according to data from Freddie Mac released Thursday. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.28% in the week ending April 6, down from 6.32% the week before. “Mortgage rates continue to trend down entering the traditional spring homebuying season,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. After hitting a 2022 high of 7.08% in November, rates started 2023 trending down. However, they climbed again in February, after robust economic data suggested the Federal Reserve was not done in its battle to cool the US economy and would likely continue hiking its benchmark lending rate. The Fed raised interest rates by a quarter point at its most recent policymaking meeting, in an effort to continue to fight stubbornly high inflation while taking into account the risks to financial stability brought about by recent turmoil in the banking sector. Read the full story here.

Home Sellers Go On Strike. According to Realtor.com, only 349,284 U.S. homes were listed for sale in March 2023. That’s below the 437,270 listed in March 2022 – a period that was infamous for its tight supply – and far below the 478,100 listed in March 2019. The best way to describe the housing market over the past year is a fight between tight supply and deteriorated affordability. Unlike the new listing total (i.e., the number of homes going on the market in a given month), the active listing total (i.e., total inventory on the market) is a better indicator of the balance in a market at any given time. At first glance, it might be easy to assume that active listings/inventory is simply a measurement of supply, however, it’s also very much a measurement of demand. See, if buyers pull back, and homes sit on the market longer, that can increase inventory levels (currently up 59.9% on a year-over-year basis) even if new listings (currently down 20.1% on a year-over-year basis) decline. What’s active listings/inventory telling us right now? The fact that active listings/inventory continued to decline through March suggests that sellers are once again gaining power over buyers. At least relative to the second half of 2022, when inventory was on a somewhat speedy uptick. While buyers have seen an increase in power relative to the frenzied spring 2022 market, it doesn’t mean we’ve shifted into a buyers’ market. One of the reasons being, after all, this inventory jump hasn’t taken us back to a balanced market. In fact, we’re far below pre-pandemic inventory levels: The 562,565 active listings on Realtor.com in March 2023 were 49.5% below the 1.1 million active listings in March 2019. Read the full story here.

U.S. Economy Adds 236,000 Jobs in March, Unemployment Rate Falls to 3.5%. The March jobs report showed hiring slowed last month but likely not by enough to ease pressure on the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates in its efforts to slow inflation. The U.S. economy added 236,000 jobs in March while the unemployment rate fell to 3.5%, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released Friday showed. Over the last six months the U.S. economy has added an average of 334,000 jobs each month. Following Friday’s release, markets are now pricing in a 67% chance the Federal Reserve raises rates by another 0.25% in May, up from 50/50 odds of a hike on Thursday ahead of the numbers, according to data from the CME Group. Forecasts from the central bank released last month suggested one additional 0.25% rate increase was likely this year. “In all the Federal Reserve will be pleased by the details of the employment report, but still is supportive of another rate hike in May – which we think could be the last for the tightening cycle. Followed by a long pause,” wrote Nationwide chief economist Kathy Bostjancic. Read the full story here.

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