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  • Writer's pictureJason Tuvia

Misaligned New and Existing Home Sales Trends Depict a Market in Flux

The real estate market is in a state of flux, with shifting dynamics affecting both prospective homebuyers and property developers. In this blog post, we'll explore the latest trends and challenges in the real estate sector, from surging mortgage rates to the impact of rising construction costs.

Surging Mortgage Rates: In the latter half of August 2023, the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage surged past 7.2 percent. This represents a significant increase of about 170 basis points from just one year ago, marking the highest figure in over two decades. These soaring rates are posing challenges for first-time homebuyers, especially with the impending resumption of federal student loan obligations in October. The high borrowing costs are causing potential homeowners to rethink their plans, ultimately bolstering demand for rental apartments.

Moreover, elevated mortgage rates are discouraging existing homeowners from listing their properties for sale. This trend is adding to the existing shortage of housing options, particularly in the lower price ranges. In July 2023, the number of existing homes available for sale was approximately 40 percent below the 10-year same-month average. Simultaneously, the median home price reached a 13-month high at $396,700, making it the fourth-highest recorded price.

Tightening Gap in Home Prices: As the existing home market grapples with insufficient inventory and rising prices, newly-constructed houses are gaining a larger share of total sales. In July, new homes accounted for roughly 16 percent of all transactions, compared to 11 percent in the same month in 2022. This shift is partly due to newly-built homes becoming comparatively less expensive. The gap between the median sale prices of new and existing homes tightened to $32,400 in July, a relative discount that propelled new home sales to a 17-month high.

However, it's important to note that new homes are still out of reach for many first-time buyers. Despite recent trends, new homes generally command higher prices than existing options. Additionally, locational factors play a significant role, with many newly-built homes located in outlying areas far from city centers and employment hubs.

Multifamily Project Slowdown: The multifamily apartment sector, despite experiencing historic construction activity, is facing soft demand, resulting in increased vacancies and slowed rent growth. Signs of a medium-term development deceleration are emerging, with multifamily project starts in July 2023 hitting the lowest mark since September 2021. Moreover, multifamily permit issuance plummeted by more than 30 percent year-over-year in July, indicating a potential slowdown in apartment construction. While the nation still grapples with a housing shortage, a reduction in the construction pipeline could help stabilize the multifamily sector.

Challenges in Development: The challenges facing real estate extend beyond mortgages and home sales. Rising material and insurance costs are creating hurdles for property developers. In the second quarter, the average insurance cost per apartment unit increased by 33 percent year-over-year. Certain Florida, Texas, and California metros experienced even larger hikes. These added expenses, coupled with the construction cost index reaching an all-time high in August 2023, are affecting the development landscape. In fact, single-family homebuilder confidence recently dipped to a three-month low, highlighting the industry's concerns.

The real estate market is undergoing a period of significant change, driven by factors such as soaring mortgage rates, shifting preferences for new homes, and challenges in property development. As the landscape continues to evolve, it's crucial for prospective homebuyers, sellers, and developers to stay informed and adapt to these trends and challenges. Whether you're looking to buy, sell, or invest in real estate, understanding the current dynamics is essential for making informed decisions in this dynamic market.

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