The Battle of Affordability.

Market watchers are predicting rising interest rates combined with rising prices are going to give the valley’s real estate market demand a one-two punch that even low supply cannot overcome.  And yet the historically and shockingly low levels of supply must make prices rise.  How can they both be right? 

“Housing Affordability” is a concept used to describe the combination of prices, interest rates, and average income for an area.  Generally when affordability exceeds the average for an area, prices mitigate or even drop because the majority of households cannot afford the cost of housing.  Yet in the greater phoenix market, while interest rates went from 3.11% in December to 3.55% in January, prices in the valley continued to rise.  In fact the median sales price went up another 2.4% in one month!  That is unexpected in a “normal” market – but this is not a normal market.  The supply of homes, both for sale and for rent, have been at record low levels for a couple of years.  There are simply too few homes for the number of people.

Despite the seemingly “endless seller’s market” this will end.  The question is when.  For more insight, we turn to Tina Tamboer of the Cromford Report (emphasis added):

“Despite prices continuing to rise, there is still an expectation that rising interest rates will eventually influence demand, and thus prices, sometime this year…. Over the course of 30 days, demand has gone from 23% above normal to 19% above normal, so there has been some shifting in demand that can be attributed to mortgage rates and their effect on affordability.  But demand is still very high, and supply moved from 72% below normal to 75% below normal during the same time frame. This drop in supply mitigated any relief the drop in demand would have had on rising prices.

When the total number of homes in an area is insufficient for the number of people living there, the interest rate has less impact on rising home values. There are fewer homes for sellers to move to, so they choose not to place their home on the market at all.  Even if demand falls due to mortgage rate increases, if it remains above normal while supply remains below normal, then property values will continue to rise.

Unless the supply of MLS homes for sale achieves a range of 16,000-24,000 listings, prices will continue to rise before demand drops low enough to stop them.”

There are subtle, early indicators of a market shift underway.  As always, we will continue to report the trends that ultimately evolve into an actual shift.  Contact us to discuss the market trends in your specific neighborhood that point to the best time to sell.

Russell & Wendy Shaw.