The housing market won’t recover much in the second half of 2019, says Capital Economics.
Mortgage interest rates have fallen this year, but that hasn’t spurred much action in the housing market, and things are unlikely to turn around for the remainder of the year as concerns about the economy continue to grow, the economists say.
“The fact interest rates are declining because of concerns that the economy is slowing argues against a strong rise in home purchase demand,” Capital Economics writes in a recent report. “That is reflected in measures of buyer sentiment. The decline in interest rates earlier this year failed to provide much of a boost to the share of households saying now is a good time to buy.”
That said, the report did indicate that rental demand will be solid thanks to strong wage growth and subdued home sales. And, the drop in rates has helped spur refinance activity, with applications jumping in the first half of June and signals indicating the likelihood of an upward trend for refis.
But purchase demand is less sensitive to changes in mortgage rates, the economists say, and home sales have therefore seen less of a lift from the drop in financing costs.
Also, the drop in rates was somewhat offset by tighter lender standards, the report says, including a recent pullback from the Federal Housing Administration that may make it harder for some riskier borrowers to qualify.
But on the bright side, homes are still affordable, the economists say.
“The fall in mortgage interest rates, slower house price gains and the rise in earnings growth have led to a drop in mortgage payments as a share of income,” the report says. “And, based on our forecasts for those variables, the payment burden is set to stay at around 16% over the next couple years, low by past standards.”
But the housing market is plagued by a lack of inventory, and this will prevent any meaningful rise in existing home sales, the report predicts.
“While the number of existing homes for sale has seen some improvement since reaching a record low at the end of 2017, at 1.8 million in May market conditions are still tight,” the report says. “And with interest rates falling back, we doubt existing inventory levels will see much of an improvement over the next couple of years.”