2019 Economic and Housing Forecast

What a year it has been for both the U.S. economy and the national housing market. After several years of above-average economic and home price growth, 2018 marked the start of a slowdown in the residential real estate market. As the year comes to a close, it’s time for me to dust off my crystal ball to see what we can expect in 2019.

The U.S. Economy

Despite the turbulence that the ongoing trade wars with China are causing, I still expect the U.S. economy to have one more year of relatively solid growth before we likely enter a recession in 2020. Yes, it’s the dreaded “R” word, but before you panic, there are some things to bear in mind.

Firstly, any cyclical downturn will not be driven by housing.  Although it is almost impossible to predict exactly what will be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back”, I believe it will likely be caused by one of the following three things: an ongoing trade war, the Federal Reserve raising interest rates too quickly, or excessive corporate debt levels. That said, we still have another year of solid growth ahead of us, so I think it’s more important to focus on 2019 for now.

The U.S. Housing Market

Existing Home Sales

This paper is being written well before the year-end numbers come out, but I expect 2018 home sales will be about 3.5% lower than the prior year. Sales started to slow last spring as we breached affordability limits and more homes came on the market.  In 2019, I anticipate that home sales will rebound modestly and rise by 1.9% to a little over 5.4 million units.

Existing Home Prices

We will likely end 2018 with a median home price of about $260,000 – up 5.4% from 2017.  In 2019 I expect prices to continue rising, but at a slower rate as we move toward a more balanced housing market. I’m forecasting the median home price to increase by 4.4% as rising mortgage rates continue to act as a headwind to home price growth.

New Home Sales

In a somewhat similar manner to existing home sales, new home sales started to slow in the spring of 2018, but the overall trend has been positive since 2011. I expect that to continue in 2019 with sales increasing by 6.9% to 695,000 units – the highest level seen since 2007.

That being said, the level of new construction remains well below the long-term average. Builders continue to struggle with land, labor, and material costs, and this is an issue that is not likely to be solved in 2019. Furthermore, these constraints are forcing developers to primarily build higher-priced homes, which does little to meet the substantial demand by first-time buyers.

Mortgage Rates

In last year’s forecast, I suggested that 5% interest rates would be a 2019 story, not a 2018 story. This prediction has proven accurate with the average 30-year conforming rates measured at 4.87% in November, and highly unlikely to breach the 5% barrier before the end of the year.

In 2019, I expect interest rates to continue trending higher, but we may see periods of modest contraction or levelling.  We will likely end the year with the 30-year fixed rate at around 5.7%, which means that 6% interest rates are more apt to be a 2020 story.

I also believe that non-conforming (or jumbo) rates will remain remarkably competitive. Banks appear to be comfortable with the risk and ultimately, the return, that this product offers, so expect jumbo loan yields to track conforming loans quite closely.

Conclusions

There are still voices out there that seem to suggest the housing market is headed for calamity and that another housing bubble is forming, or in some cases, is already deflating.  In all the data that I review, I just don’t see this happening. Credit quality for new mortgage holders remains very high and the median down payment (as a percentage of home price) is at its highest level since 2004.

That is not to say that there aren’t several markets around the country that are overpriced, but just because a market is overvalued, does not mean that a bubble is in place. It simply means that forward price growth in these markets will be lower to allow income levels to rise sufficiently.

Finally, if there is a big story for 2019, I believe it will be the ongoing resurgence of first-time buyers. While these buyers face challenges regarding student debt and the ability to save for a down payment, they are definitely on the comeback and likely to purchase more homes next year than any other buyer demographic.

Originally published on Inman News.

Posted on January 7, 2019 at 3:30 pm
John Taylor | Category: Economy | Tagged , , ,

HQ3?

The Front Range may have lost out on Amazon’s HQ2, but that doesn’t mean their company won’t affect our economy.

Denver was in the running for Amazon’s massive new second headquarters that supposedly would bring 50,000 new high-paying jobs and $5 Billion of investment.

In the end Amazon chose to split the headquarters among two East-Coast cities and many in Colorado breathed a sigh of relief.

But they are will continue to be an economic force in our state.

Over the past two years, Amazon has greatly expanded its footprint in Metro Denver, opening up a sorting center in Aurora, fulfillment centers in Aurora and Thornton, a Prime Now center in Denver and a new delivery center in Centennial.

They will soon have 3,000 workers here and that number is expected to grow significantly.

Posted on November 21, 2018 at 4:13 pm
John Taylor | Category: Economy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FUNdamentals

 

In times of change (like now), it’s valuable to look at the fundamentals of our market.

Let’s have some fun with fundamentals…

1.  Our economy is healthy – since 1990, the unemployment rate in Colorado has never been higher than the U.S. unemployment rate.  Ever.  Unemployment in Colorado sits at 2.7% today while the rate across the U.S. is 4.0%.

2.  People keep moving here – since 2005 our population has grown by just over a million people which is roughly 77,000 per year (about the size of Mile High Stadium).

3.  Our real estate outperforms other places – according the Federal Housing Finance Authority, Colorado is the #1 state for home price appreciation since 1990.

Posted on October 30, 2018 at 6:01 pm
John Taylor | Category: Economy | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Challenges Builders Face With New Construction

Housing demand remains high across the Western United States, but home-building is still struggling to keep up. What can be done to help encourage construction of new homes? Windermere Real Estate’s Chief Economist Matthew Gardner has insight.​

 

Posted on September 21, 2018 at 3:30 pm
John Taylor | Category: Economy | Tagged , , ,

How Zoning and Regulatory Costs Impact Housing Affordability

Windermere Real Estate Chief Economist Matthew Gardner explains the ways zoning rules and regulatory costs can limit housing affordability.​

 

Posted on August 31, 2018 at 2:58 pm
John Taylor | Category: Economy

Baby Boomers: Impact on the U.S. Housing Market

75 million Baby Boomers control nearly 80% of all U.S. wealth, and as this generation ages, retires, and inevitably downsizes, they will have a significant impact on the housing market. Windermere’s Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, explains when we can expect to see Boomers start to sell, opening much-needed inventory and making home ownership available to younger generations.

 

Posted on August 9, 2018 at 3:30 pm
John Taylor | Category: Economy | Tagged , , ,

How Will the Real Estate Market Respond to Rising Interest Rates?

Let Windermere Real Estate’s Chief Economist Matthew Gardner walk you through what to expect from the real estate market amidst rising interest rates.​

 

 

Posted on July 25, 2018 at 3:30 pm
John Taylor | Category: Economy | Tagged , ,