Is there something wrong at Freddie Mac?
Clearly, the housing market is doing just fine.
Read the latest Case-Shiller. Housing pretty much recovered.
And Ten-X, too. Home sales increased in January.
Don’t forget Black Knight. Home prices are so close to a new peak.
And so in this, Freddie Mac publishes a January 2017 monthly summary that looks “at the uncertainty that weighs on the housing market after the best year in a decade.”
So why isn't Freddie Mac on board with all these rosy, housing outlooks?
Simply put, from a mortgage perspective, things aren’t so bright.
They aren’t alone, First American said that rising interest rates are finally taking a toll on home affordability.
So what gives? Is it rates? Maybe uncertainty surrounding what Trump will do next is weighing their outlook. Is it that a strong dollar is pushing away foreign investment, leading to a smaller mortgage market?
The answer, they say, is all of the above.
"The U.S. economy is now in its eighth year of expansion and the housing market is coming off its best year in a decade," said Sean Becketti, Chief Economist, Freddie Mac. "Prospects remain good for future growth."
"However, uncertainty weighs on our outlook for 2017 and 2018. We must grapple with uncertainty about fiscal policy, foreign investments in U.S. real estate, and the size of the mortgage market," Becketti adds. "Among the many uncertainties we highlighted, however, a smaller mortgage market in 2017 than 2016 seems most certain."
In the Ten-X report, there are echoes of the same concerns, to be sure. “There are plenty of challenges facing the housing market this year, including incredibly low inventory of homes for sale, rising home prices and higher interest rates,” Ten-X Executive Vice President Rick Sharga said. “Still, we're cautiously optimistic that the market will improve slightly on a year-over-year basis.”
Freddie is not as optimistic when it factors in tax reform and expected fiscal proposals.
"Increasing the standard deduction will reduce the number of households who find it advantageous to itemize deductions," the report states in regard to tax reform proposals. "This will reduce the incentive for homeownership coming from the mortgage interest deduction."
Furthermore: "With rising interest rates, we expect mortgage origination volumes to decline in 2017 relative to 2016 and origination volume to stabilize at a lower level in 2018."
A smaller mortgage market, for all these reasons combined, mean Freddie Mac is not as rosy when it comes to the 2017 outlook.
If this is really the case, it's only a matter of time before the housing pundits follow suit. And, it looks like they are already taking notice.