Eric Forney, director of industry for Livian shares his wit and wisdom as he reviews current market stats and weighs in on what’s next. Check out this week’s outlook, and add these insights to your weekly playbook.

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As we complete the first week of September, we can officially reflect on August’s housing data and the story being told by the trends. 

The latest real-time data from Realtor.com indicates that list prices decelerated for the third month in a row as more homeowners opted out of selling their low-interest high-equity homes.

Normally, fewer sellers would cause days on market to go down. However, for the first time since 2020, days on market increased for sellers. This is a result of weakened buyer demand, causing inventory levels to continue growing, even though fewer new listings hit the market. 

The increase in active inventory is welcomed by buyers who are still actively searching for their next home, as they now have more choices than they did a year ago.

Sales and prices

The national list price to sold price ratio finally found its way below 100 percent for the first time in nearly 18 months. Home prices have retreated from their record highs as mortgage rates ticked back up this week. Rising interest rates combined with the typical Labor Day showing slowdown may lead to more reductions in price than usual for this time of year.

While home prices slowly retreat, we’re still not seeing an influx in homebuyers rushing in to capitalize — mortgage applications and pending sales are both seeing large declines from a year ago — largely due to mortgage rates which appear poised to get higher than Willie Nelson at a Snoop Dogg concert. 

Interest rates are flirting with their highest levels of the year, as previously experienced in June. Homesellers are also staying on the sidelines as new listings and total homes for sale saw a sharp decline again last week.

A further sign that sellers are increasingly unwilling to enter the market to sell their low-interest rate loans: Refinance applications are currently down 83 percent from this time last year. 

Combine that with a 23 percent decline in purchase applications, and now might be a good time to check on your favorite loan officer.

Holiday hangover and predictions unfold

During Labor Day weekend, showing traffic decreased significantly, which may cause homes to remain on the market longer than normal. As you’d expect, when days on market increase, we often see an uptick of sellers lowering their list prices. 

So, to capture the attention and love of today’s buyers, a seller’s home needs to win both the price and the beauty contest. Due to the ongoing effects of inflation and declining affordability, homebuyers’ budgets are becoming increasingly stretched thin as rates rise. 

The fundamentals of the market remain good for sellers, but sellers are facing two headwinds: declining seasonality and dwindling buyer activity.

Last week, the nerds at Goldman Sachs peered into their crystal ball to forecast a complete stall of national home price growth in 2023. Their models suggest that price growth will slow sharply for the remainder of this year. 

As the market rebalances the unique constraints of depleted supply and shrinking demand, Goldman expects home prices to remain flat in 2023. Goldman asserts that outright declines in national home prices are possible.

But it’s more likely we will see regionalized pricing trends rather than large-scale national price declines.

Speaking of regionalized pricing, what goes up like a crypto chart, must come down like one. First on the list of metros to see year-over-year declines in their median sale prices are Honolulu, HI, Oakland, CA, and San Francisco. 

These three metros all saw at least a 3 percent year-over-year decline in home values. Not surprisingly, these three metros exceed the national median home price by anywhere between 50 percent and 300 percent. 

Regionally, large Western markets, which saw some of the most growth last year and earlier this year, are now showing the greatest signs of deceleration, with larger inventory increases, more price reductions, and more quickly decelerating price growth than other regions.

What slowdown?

One region that remains strong is the Southeast, with Florida dominating home price growth once again. Aside from Florida having the highest home price gains in the nation, it has the top two metros for appreciation as well. 

Tampa logged the highest year-over-year home price increase of the country’s largest metros at 29.7 percent, while Miami claims the nation’s second slot at 27.1 percent YOY price growth. 

And in case you’re wondering who finds themselves ranked dead last in appreciation — this is going to shock you — Washington DC.

When taking a look at market pricing, the median asking price of newly listed homes is 9 percent higher than this time last year. Yet, asking prices are down nearly 6 percent from their record highs in May.

This highly conservative pricing approach is a sign that the velocity of confusion for sellers and agents is compounding each week. During this same period last year, list prices had declined by 0.4 percent, compared to the nearly 6 percent reduction we’re seeing today.

Choose your path

And this is where market psychology and behavioral finance get interesting. Newly listed homes are down double-digits from 2021, yet sellers are pricing their homes more aggressively than the fundamentals might indicate they should. 

Typically, we’d see this type of seller psychology in markets with a surplus of supply; however, the housing market is still facing a significant shortage of inventory. While there has been an improvement in the number of homes actively for sale, active listings lag their pre-pandemic levels.

Fewer people are searching for “homes for sale” on Google when compared to this time last year. Searches for this term are down 21 percent from a year earlier. 

Before you crash addicts panic about a 20 percent reduction in search traffic — zoom out. Today’s search demand aligns with the same search traffic we saw in 2018 and 2019.

Confusion and uncertainty remain the central theme of the housing market. Yet, the most confusing part to me is trying to grasp why agents continue to foolishly waste their days worrying about the near-term direction of markets. 

As Warren Buffett once told investors, “Predicting the rain doesn’t count; building arks does.” I can’t help but think he was also imparting wisdom to real estate agents. 

The choice is yours: Will you give your time to foolishly predicting the future, or will your actions and habits create your future? Remember, the market never determines your outcome; it only determines your strategy.

Editor’s Note: Altos Research is credited for most of the statistical data provided in this outlook series.

Eric Forney is the Director of Industry for Livian. For more information, visit www.livian.com.

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