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From the November/December 2022 issue of the Housing News Report

If the Federal Reserve set out to slow down home price appreciation in its quest to reduce inflation, it appears that it has succeeded in spectacular fashion. As a result of its aggressive hikes to the Fed Funds rate over the past few months, mortgage rates on a 30-year fixed-rate loan have more than doubled, and these rapidly rising mortgage rates have not only resulted in fewer home sales but have begun to impact home prices as well. With rates the highest they’ve been in over 20 years, homebuyers face serious affordability challenges, with monthly payments in some markets up 50 percent year-over-year.

According to recently published data from Freddie Mac, home price appreciation on a year-over-year basis dropped to two percent, down from 14 percent just a few months ago. And monthly data actually shows home prices declining in many markets, especially on the West Coast, and in some of the so-called “Zoom towns,” where prices rose astronomically last year due to an influx of work-from-home homebuyers migrating from higher priced markets. It’s very likely that home prices will continue to weaken in many markets in the coming months, unless mortgage rates begin to reverse course.

These trends highlight the third-quarter ATTOM 2022 U.S. Home Sales Report, which shows that profit margins on median-priced single-family home and condo sales across the United States decreased to 54.6 percent as home prices declined for the first time in almost three years. The drop-off in typical profit margins, from 57.6 percent in the second quarter, came as the median national home value went down 3 percent quarterly, to roughly $340,000.

Typical investment returns for home sellers did remain up from 48.8 percent in the third quarter of 2021 and were still at near-record levels for this century – some 20 points higher than just two years earlier. The national median home price also stayed near its all-time high – more than double where it stood a decade earlier.

But the investment-return decline during this year’s summertime home-selling season marked the largest quarterly downturn since 2011, when the nation was mired in the aftereffects of the Great Recession that hit in the late 2000s. The third-quarter reversal also represented the first time since 2010 that seller returns went down from a second quarter to a third quarter period.

Gross profits also decreased from the second quarter to the third quarter of 2022, dropping 6 percent on the typical single-family home and condo sale across the country to $120,100. That quarterly decrease was the largest since early 2017.

Profit margins drop quarterly while still up annually across most of U.S.

Typical profit margins – the percent change between median purchase and resale prices – decreased from the second quarter of 2022 to the third quarter of 2022 in 127 (68 percent) of the 186 metropolitan statistical areas around the U.S. with sufficient data to analyze. They declined by at least three percentage points in about half of those metro areas, although returns were still up annually in 145 of them (78 percent).

The biggest quarterly decreases in typical profit margins came in the metro areas of Claremont-Lebanon, NH (margin down from 72.8 percent in the second quarter of 2022 to 52.4 percent in the third quarter of 2022); San Francisco, CA (down from 85.1 percent to 65.4 percent); Prescott, AZ (down from 86.3 percent to 70.8 percent); Barnstable, MA (down from 74.5 percent to 59.6 percent) and Trenton, NJ (down from 74.5 percent to 61 percent).

Aside from San Francisco, the biggest quarterly profit-margin decreases in metro areas with a population of at least 1 million in the third quarter of 2022 were in Seattle, WA (return down from 87.2 percent to 73.7 percent); San Jose, CA (down from 87.5 percent to 76.7 percent); Raleigh, NC (down from 65.6 percent to 56 percent) and Birmingham, AL (down from 40.5 percent to 31.3 percent).

Typical profit margins increased quarterly in just 59 of the 186 metro areas analyzed (32 percent). The biggest quarterly increases were in Macon, GA (margin up from 44.7 percent in the second quarter of 2022 to 82.4 percent in the third quarter of 2022); Rockford, IL (up from 29.9 percent to 41.8 percent); Davenport, IA (up from 29.2 percent to 40 percent); Akron, OH (up from 52.8 percent to 60.3 percent) and Hilo, HI (up from 103.3 percent to 110.9 percent).

The largest quarterly increases in profit margins among metro areas with a population of at least 1 million came in Milwaukee, WI (up from 51.4 percent to 54.9 percent); Miami, FL (up from 68 percent to 70.9 percent); Cincinnati, OH (up from 50.6 percent to 53.4 percent); Nashville, TN (up from 56.4 percent to 58.7 percent) and Grand Rapids, MI (up from 73 percent to 75.3 percent).

Prices flat or down in half the metro areas around the U.S.

Median home prices in the third quarter of 2022 decreased from the prior quarter or stayed the same in 98 (53 percent) of the 186 metro areas with enough data to analyze, although they were still up annually in 180 of those metros (97 percent). Nationally, the median price of $339,815 in the third quarter was down 2.7 percent from $349,266 in the second quarter of 2022, but still up 9.4 percent from $310,500 in the third quarter of last year.

The biggest decreases in median home prices from the second to the third quarter of 2022 were in San Francisco, CA (down 13 percent); Charleston, NC (down 12.8 percent); Crestview-Fort Walton Beach, FL (down 11.3 percent); San Jose, CA (down 8.3 percent) and Naples, FL (down 8.2 percent).

Aside from San Francisco and San Jose, the largest quarterly median-price declines in metro areas with a population of at least 1 million in the third quarter of 2022 were in New Orleans, LA (down 7.5 percent); Seattle, WA (down 7.2 percent) and San Diego, CA (down 5.3 percent).

The largest increases in median prices from the second to the third quarter of 2022 were in Trenton, NJ (up 14.6 percent); Albany, NY (up 8.7 percent); New York, NY (up 7.5 percent); Wichita, KS (up 7.1 percent) and Philadelphia, PA (up 6.7 percent).

Aside from New York and Philadelphia, the biggest quarterly increases in metro areas with a population of at least 1 million in the third quarter of 2022 were in Cleveland, OH (up 4.7 percent); Detroit, MI (up 4.5 percent) and St. Louis, MO (up 4.1 percent).

Where the Market Goes from Here

There’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the housing market since the Federal Reserve is unlikely to take a less aggressive approach in its rate hikes until inflation starts to make its way back down towards the Fed’s 2 percent target. More hikes to the Fed Funds rate could easily lead to higher mortgage rates, worsening affordability, deeper price declines, and fewer existing and new home sales.

Most forecasters are more optimistic than that, however, and are predicting price declines of less than 10 percent nationally in 2023 with some markets – especially in the South and Southeastern states – actually seeing prices increase. Limited inventory, coupled with demographically driven demand and extremely low levels of distressed properties, should help keep prices from plummeting further, and the consensus seems to be that mortgage rates may dip back into the 5 percent range by the end of next year, improving affordability for prospective home buyers.

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