The 2023 housing market faced one of the same roadblocks we saw in 2022: mortgage rates were too high for home sales growth. Now that we’re in 2024, the Federal Reserve‘s rate hike cycle is over, so let’s look at what that means for housing demand and home prices. However, a yearly forecast has limitations and in this crazy housing and economic cycle, if people give you a yearly forecast without guidance as variables change, you’ll be dealing with stale data. Every Saturday I publish a weekly housing market tracker with forward-looking data and insights so you can adjust quickly to market conditions.
Here’s my forecast for 2024:
10-year yield and mortgage rates
For 2024, the 10-year yield range will be similar to 2023, but with a few different variables to watch.
- 10-year yield range: 4.25%-3.21%
- Mortgage rates: between 7.25%-5.75%
A key level to watch for the 10-year yield is 3.37%. To go below this level last year, labor would need to break, so I borrowed Gandalf the Grey’s catchphrase: “You shall not pass.” And the 10-year yield did not pass that level in 2023!
However, if the labor or economic data gets weaker, we can break through that Gandalf line, which means 2.72% on the 10-year yield is in play for 2024. This could mean sub-5% mortgage rates if the spreads get better — a win for the housing market.. If the spreads are still bad, mortgage rates will be between 5%-6%. If the 10-year yield gets above 4.25%, the U.S. economy has outperformed again, as it did in Q3 when it grew at 5% and jobless claims fell.
Here is a chart of the 10-year yield with the inflation growth rate data tied to it for 2023:
Now let’s talk about mortgage rates!
The spread between the 10-year yield and mortgage rates can get better in 2024, which means mortgage rates could be 0.625% to 1% lower next year. For example, mortgage rates would be under 6% today if the spreads were normal. Instead, they closed 2023 at 6.67%. If the spreads get anywhere back to normal and the 10-year yield gets to the lower end of the range in 2024, we can have sub-5 % mortgage rates in 2024.
With the Fed no longer in hiking mode, any economic weakness on the labor side is a better backdrop to send mortgage rates lower. Unlike 2023, this year there are more positive variables that could send mortgage rates lower rather than higher.
If everything stays constant, 2024 home-price growth levels will repeat what happened in 2023: low single-digit national home-price gains.
What could make home prices grow faster than low single digits? If I am wrong and mortgage rates go lower for longer and we don’t get more new listings in 2024, then home prices can grow faster in 2024 because we will have the same issue as before: too many people chasing too few homes.
What could make home prices decline? This would happen if we saw a surge of stressed inventory and mortgage rates didn’t go low enough to handle that much new supply into the market. We had mortgage rates in a solid range between 3.75% and 4.75% for most of the previous decade, but that hasn’t been the case recently. So, this is something to consider only if we see an increase in stressed inventory.
To give an example of what I am talking about, from 2008 to 2011, new listings data ran between 250,000 and 400,000 each week, with the peak seasonal data at 370,000 and 400,000. We haven’t had new listings data break over 90,000 in the peak seasons of 2021, 2022 or 2023. So if we do see a push in stressed new listings we have to be on it right away and see how the supply and demand equilibrium works.
However, we won’t have this conversation until we see it in the weekly data. In this episode of the HousingWire Daily podcast I explain how fast the housing dynamics shifted after Nov. 9, 2022, with prices returning to all-time highs in months. This is why weekly data is important!
Existing home sales
When we saw mortgage rates fall from 7.375% to 5.99% early in 2023, we got one of the most significant existing home sales prints ever, going from 4 million to 4.55 million. We need lower rates to get more consistent sales growth and to have one or two monthly existing home sales prints of 4.72 million or more, it’s going to take sub-6% mortgage rates with duration.
We will track the purchase application data weekly, however, I am only focused on that 4.72 million monthly print number for 2024 because the lack of affordability with rates still this high is impacting sales.
New home sales
As long as mortgage rates go lower, the builders can sell homes because they can lower mortgage rates even more than the existing home sales market and they have a pipeline of homes to sell. They have 106,000 homes that they haven’t even started construction on yet, and only 78,000 new homes have been completed and are ready to sell. They will manage their supply slowly.
Looking at the economic cycle and the housing economy, we have a similar playbook going into 2024 as we did in 2023. Let’s look at that dynamic.
I raised the final flag in my six recession red flag model on Aug. 5, 2022. However, by Nov. 9, 2022, I saw that housing market dynamics had shifted and if I was right, the builders were about to get more positive about their business. Sure enough, the builders confidence survey started to grow again going into 2023.
As mortgage rates started rising toward 8%, the builders survey started to go lower, mostly due to smaller builders feeling the pinch. Now that rates have fallen again, this is a positive for the single-family housing market. The new home sales market means more to the economy because of construction jobs and big-ticket item purchases. In contrast, the existing home sales market is more about the transfer of commission and moving trucks.
People correctly keep an eye on the builder’s survey. However, the builder survey and new home sales rebounded to growth in 2023, and now, with rates almost down 1.5% for 2024, lower rates will help the builder survey again.
This is only for the single-family housing market, not the apartment market, which is heading into a decline in activity. This is something to watch on labor, as certain builders will not need as many people to build apartments. When rates stay too high for too long, you eventually impact future production.
We will only start talking about a recession when jobless claims break over 323,000 on the four-week moving average. We won’t talk about a recession today, or next year or even this decade until that happens. The history of economics has shown us that we need the labor market to break to have a job-loss recession. If you followed my work during COVID-19, you know my critical two takes about the labor market and how household balance sheets are much better now than ever. When jobless claims break that critical level, we will have a good discussion about the economy and the housing market, just not yet.
If the economy doesn’t have a credit event where lending gets tighter, the consumer should hold up in 2024, especially with lower mortgage rates. This means the homebuilders can sell more homes and keep construction workers employed longer. Falling construction employment is a staple of all job-loss recessions, and we have avoided that so far.
For 2024, I want to stress that the economic data can turn on a dime — both positive and negative — in ways that weren’t the case in the previous decade. Following the weekly tracker will be essential for the housing market and the economy. I track this stuff daily so you don’t have to!
The existing home sales market has spent the last 18 months with sales near great recession levels. Now it’s time for the Fed to give up on its covid-era housing economic policy and be pro-housing once again. It’s time to get U.S. housing off the COVID-19 policy and get sales growing.