Most economists agree that housing prices and sales will continue to grow in 2016, just at a slower pace. Call it a slowdown, but not bad news. Moderate growth is more sustainable, and better for buyers.
Next year holds a few interesting developments, some good for housing, some bad. Easier credit will bring in more buyers, but higher mortgage rates, continued low inventory and the wildcard of a presidential election will weigh down growth.
All things considered, we see a fairly uneventful housing market next year.
Prediction 1: Prices and sales will grow half as fast
As price growth ebbs and mortgage rates rise, more homeowners will stay put. Sales will grow about half as fast as they did this year and prices will rise at a more normal 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent, down from almost 6 percent this year.
Prediction 2: Easier Credit
Americans for whom a mortgage has been just out of reach will have a better shot at qualifying for one in 2016.
Lenders will embrace new ways to measure creditworthiness and mortgages will evolve to serve a changing American household. For example, credit scores will better evaluate a person’s rental history and utility bill payments. More loans will allow buyers to include income from room rentals, live-in parents and extended-family members.
We think enhanced credit access will offset the expected increase in mortgage rates.
Prediction 3: More (and Older) First-Time Buyers
We expect first-timers to make up a bigger portion of the market than they did this year. The reason is simple: The market will be more welcoming to them thanks to the aforementioned slowing price growth and easier access to loans. This year’s market dropouts have saved for bigger downpayments and will be ready to give the market another shot early next year. And more of those millennials who had been holding off on buying for various reasons will finally be ready and able to in 2016.
Prediction 4: Slower market, slowing closings
The 2015 housing market was the fastest we’ve seen at Redfin. From January to October, the typical home was on the market for 36 days, four days faster than the same period in 2014. We expect the market to slow in 2016 as government-backed loans become more common and cash sales become less so. Because of low inventory, bidding wars will still be in force next year, but there will be a lower ceiling on price escalation as 2016 buyers won’t be willing or able to go as high as buyers have in recent years.
Prediction 5: Continuing Inventory Shortage
The biggest risk to the 2016 market will be the continuation of inventory shortage, especially in the affordable segment of the market. The number of homes for sale shrank from 2014 to 2015 in 45 of the 60 metro tracked by Redfin. Inventory across all 60 metros is down 4 percent from a year ago.
Despite dramatic growth in home values in recent years, many homeowners who might otherwise like to move can’t because they still don’t have enough equity. Although the second quarter of 2015 saw improvements in home equity nationally, 9 percent of homeowners are underwater on their mortgage and another 18 percent don’t have enough equity to refinance or get a new loan.
And for those who have built solid equity and locked in a low mortgage rate, the upcoming rate hikes will only lessen the appeal of selling and getting a new loan on their next home.
Even though there are signs of life in new construction, much of the new building will be focused on rentals. Less than two-thirds of new construction is targeted for single-family homes, despite growing demand for affordable homes by next year’s buyers.