January 23, 2024
Note: You can find the charts & graphs for the Big Story at the end of the following section.
A 1.18% mortgage rate drop matters … a lot
In any case, for the >70% of homebuyers who finance their purchases with mortgages, rate cuts are very good news, as shown by the month-over-month increase in sales. However, even before the December meeting, economic indicators seemed favorable for rate cuts, which, in part, caused mortgage rates to drop 0.57% in November 2023 — a significant fall from the 23-year high of 7.79% in October. Markets move a lot faster than the Fed, and the 1.18% mortgage rate drop in November and December brings to mind the trends we saw in the first quarter of 2022. In December 2021, Fed Chair Jerome Powell stated that they were increasing rates beginning in March 2022, but mortgage rates increased by about a point in the first quarter even before the Fed made any changes.
The 1.18% decline in mortgage rates has set the stage for a much busier spring and summer season, although we still expect a relatively slow first quarter. Interest rates are still too high for potential buyers and sellers to rush back to the market, especially when they expect further rate cuts. However, if mortgage rates were to drop another point to around 5.5%, a huge number of participants would jump back into the market. Remember that every 1% decrease in interest rates roughly equates to a 10% decrease in monthly financing costs. The inverse is also true, which is why rates have priced buyers out of the market and remain the primary cause of the market slowdown over the past two years.
Because inventory hasn’t grown, prices haven’t meaningfully declined. In fact, home prices currently fall only 8% below the June 2022 all-time high, which means that any savings will likely come from rate drops. Even if a significant number of sellers come to market, there’s enough pent-up demand that inventory won’t be able to grow enough for prices to stagnate or decline outside of normal seasonal trends. On top of that, home prices almost always appreciate. In other words, betting on home prices to decline is statistically similar to betting on 00 in roulette. Nationally, the median price will likely hit a new all-time high in June 2024. The National Association of Realtors’ Chief Economist Lawrence Yun recently remarked that home prices keep marching higher, and only a dramatic rise in supply will dampen price appreciation.
Different regions and individual houses vary from the broad national trends, so we’ve included a Local Lowdown below to provide you with in-depth coverage for your area. In general, higher-priced regions (the West and Northeast) have been hit harder by mortgage rate hikes than less expensive markets (the South and Midwest) because of the absolute dollar cost of the rate hikes and limited ability to build new homes. As always, we will continue to monitor the housing and economic markets to best guide you in buying or selling your home.
Note: You can find the charts/graphs for the Local Lowdown at the end of this section.
Median single-family home prices close 2023 up year over year across most of the Bay Area
In the Greater Bay Area, home prices haven’t been largely affected by rising mortgage rates after the initial period of price correction from April 2022 to January 2023. In December, the median prices across most Bay Area counties were only slightly below their record highs with the exception of Marin and San Francisco, which peaked incredibly high in 2022. We expect prices to remain fairly stable in the winter months, but as interest rates decline and more sellers come to the market, prices will almost certainly rise in the first half of 2024. However, more homes must come to the market in the spring and summer to get anything close to a healthy market.
High mortgage rates soften both supply and demand, so ideally, as rates fall, far more sellers will come to the market. Rising demand can only do so much for the market if there isn’t supply to meet it. Unlike 2023 inventory, 2024 inventory has a much better chance of following more typical seasonal patterns.
Inventory, sales, and new listings declined month over month
Single-family home and condo inventory barely increased at all last year, which is far from the seasonal norm. In 2023, inventory didn’t have anything resembling the typical sine wave, since far fewer sellers came to the market, especially in the first half of the year, and the low inventory and fewer new listings slowed the market considerably. New listings have been exceptionally low, so the little inventory growth last year was driven by softening demand. In fact, new listings were the lowest on record in the Bay Area, and the lack of new listings was the main reason San Francisco inventory declined to a record low in December. Typically, inventory peaks in July or August and declines through December or January. In December, inventory, sales, and new listings dropped across Bay Area markets. With the current low inventory levels, the number of new listings coming to market is a significant predictor of sales. Month over month, new listings fell 50% and sales declined 10%. Year over year, sales and new listings are down 9% and 14%, respectively. Total inventory is down 17% year over year.
As demand slows, buyers are gaining slightly more negotiating power and paying less than asking price on average. The average seller received 95% of list price in January, which grew to 102% by mid-year. From June to December, the average seller received around 99% of list price.
Inventory will almost certainly remain historically low for the next few months, and buyer competition will ramp up meaningfully in the spring, which will drive price appreciation.
Months of Supply Inventory in December 2023 indicated a sellers’ market
Months of Supply Inventory (MSI) quantifies the supply/demand relationship by measuring how many months it would take for all current homes listed on the market to sell at the current rate of sales. The long-term average MSI is around three months in California, which indicates a balanced market. An MSI lower than three indicates that there are more buyers than sellers on the market (meaning it’s a sellers’ market), while a higher MSI indicates there are more sellers than buyers (meaning it’s a buyers’ market). The Bay Area markets tend to favor sellers, which is reflected in their low MSIs. San Francisco MSI is notable for its variability over the past year, oscillating from buyers’ to sellers’ markets twice over the course of 10 months. Currently, single-family home MSI is below three months of supply (sellers’ market) in every Bay Area county except for single-family homes in Napa, which is more balanced, and condos in Monterey, which now favors buyers. The condo markets are a little more mixed, but mostly balanced.
Our team is committed to continuing to serve all your real estate needs while incorporating safety protocol to protect all of our loved ones.
In addition, as your local real estate experts, we feel it’s our duty to give you, our valued client, all the information you need to better understand our local real estate market. Whether you’re buying or selling, we want to make sure you have the best, most pertinent information, so we’ve put together this monthly analysis breaking down specifics about the market.
As we all navigate this together, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or concerns. We’re here to support you.
Stay up to date on the latest real estate trends.
February 24, 2024
February 24, 2024
February 22, 2024
February 22, 2024
February 22, 2024
February 10, 2024
January 31, 2024
January 26, 2024
January 24, 2024
You’ve got questions and we can’t wait to answer them.