In 2013, the housing recovery was a welcome bright spot for the economy: prices were shooting up, fewer homeowners were underwater, and builder confidence was finally on the upswing. It’s looking like 2014 should be another good year for housing–mostly. Here are ten things housing experts expect to see in 2014:
1. More homes will be available
Short supply drove rapid price increases at the beginning of 2013, but watch for that to change next year. Realtor.com notes that the inventory (homes available for purchase) shortage began to soften in February. New construction and rising prices should bring more homes, both new and old, on to the market in 2014, helping inventory return to traditional levels.
2. Mortgage rates will rise
Online real estate database Zillow predicts rates will hit 5% by the end of 2014–well up from the 4′s and 3′s of late, but still well within normal levels. New Fed Reserve chief Janet Yellen is expected to continue Ben Bernanke’s policy of keeping mortgage rates low by buying blocks of mortgage-backed securities, but the Fed’s bond-buying taper could push rates higher. “While this will make homes more expensive to finance – the monthly payment on a $200,000 loan will rise by roughly $160 – it’s important to remember that mortgage rates in the 5 percent range are still very low,” says Erin Lantz, Zillow’s director of mortgages. Really. “Prior to the Federal Reserve’s 2008 decision to buy $85 billion in debt per month, the 36-year average was 9.2%, and never below 5.8%,” notes Glen Kelman, CEO of Redfin.
3. Mortgages will be easier to get
“The silver lining to rising interest rates is that getting a loan will be easier,” says Lantz. “Rising rates means lenders’ refinance business will dwindle, forcing them to compete for buyers by potentially loosening their lending standards.”
4. Home prices will rise 3%
Redfin and Zillow are predicting that home prices will rise between 3% and 5% in 2014. For comparison’s sake, 2013 saw jumps of 5% nationally, with increases of more than 20% in some hot spots. “These gains, while beneficial in many ways, were also unsustainable and well above historic norms for healthy, balanced markets,” says Dr. Stan Humphries, Zillow’s chief economist. “This year, home value gains will slow down significantly because of higher mortgage rates, more expensive home prices, and more supply created by fewer underwater homeowners and more new construction.”
5. Fewer homeowners will be underwater
Rising prices helped 2.5 million homeowners with underwater mortgages regain positive equity status during the second quarter of 2013, according to Realtor.com. By Q3, a CoreLogic report found that about 6.4 million homes were still in negative equity at the end of Q3. Watch for that number to shrink in 2014.
6. Affordability will decline
Despite the slower pace of price increases, home affordability will decline as mortgage rates rise. The real culprit is income levels, which aren’t keeping pace with the increases in housing costs. In 2013, the National Association of Realtors’ Home Affordability Index dropped to a five-year low. Experts predict the trend will continue in 2014.
7. Ownership will decline
In 2014, Zillow predicts, homeownership rates will fall below 65 percent for the first time since 1995. “The housing bubble was fueled by easy lending standards and irrational expectations of home value appreciation, but it put a historically high number of American households – seven out of ten – in a home, if only temporarily,” says Humphries. “That homeownership level proved unsustainable and during the housing recession and recovery the homeownership rate has floated back down to a more normal level, and we expect it to break 65% for the first time since the mid-1990s.” Watch also for adult children to move out of their parents’ homes, starting their own households and further decreasing the overall homeownership rate.
8. Americans will move
Rising prices, a reversal of underwater mortgages, and easier credit will free Americans up to move. But next time they’ll choose smaller homes in more affordable locations. Redfin is predicting that new lending regulations–which make it harder to borrow more–will send Americans to less expensive hubs like Portland, Denver, Austin, Richmond, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Atlanta, and Raleigh.
9. Foreclosures will fade
The once booming foreclosure market has slowed, with September 2013 the 36th straight month of year-over-year decreases in foreclosure activity, nearly 33% down from the end of 2012. The declines should continue with the overall housing recovery.
10. Home buying process less crazed
During the bust, investors bought as many as one out of every five homes in America, according to Redfin. The perfect storm of increased inventory, higher prices, and fewer foreclosures means that investors are stepping out of the buying market, giving way for regular folks. Add to that the loosening credit rules, and the housing buy market begins to look more normal. “All in all, more inventory, less competition from investors, and more mortgage credit should all make the buying process less frenzied than in 2013,” says Kolko of Trulia.