The median home price in the United States landed 1% below the all-time high it reached in June 2022 after appreciating 13.6% in 2023. At the same time, mortgage rates are 1% higher than a year ago, which means the monthly cost of a home is 10% higher than last year.
The Fed hiked rates by 0.25% in mid-July to the highest level since 2001, which didn’t impact mortgage rates because the rate increase was expected. However, Fitch unexpectedly downgraded U.S. credit from AAA to AA+ on August 1 and, although we’ve maintained that 30-year mortgage rates would likely hover between 6% and 7% during 2023, the surprise downgrade may push mortgage rates slightly above 7% in the third quarter.
Broadly, the economy is doing well with strong GDP growth, high employment rates and job creation, falling inflation, and growing consumer confidence. Strong economics coupled with a low supply of homes have kept prices climbing, despite sustained elevated mortgage rates.
Note: You can find the charts & graphs for the Big Story at the end of the following section.
At the start of 2023, the economic consensus resoundingly predicted an impending recession, which has yet to come, and we’re happy to say that consensus has shifted to moderate economic growth. A “soft landing” — reducing inflation without a recession — seems more likely than ever. The economy is far from perfect, but the effect of largely positive economic news eventually leads to a more positive economic outlook from the average person. Job creation and GDP growth in the first half of 2023 have significantly beat expectations. Inflation is declining rapidly, and consumer confidence is the highest it’s been since February 2022. We can largely attribute the bounce in home prices to consumer perception, but consumer perception isn’t the only factor. Home prices certainly rose as recession worries subsided, even in the face of elevated mortgage rates. Supply, or lack thereof, has been the other major factor in the price rebound. Low, but growing inventory allowed for prices to increase quickly.
Different regions and individual houses vary from the broad national trends, so we’ve included a Local Lowdown below to provide you with in-depth coverage for your area. In general, higher-priced regions (the West and Northeast) have been hit harder by mortgage rate hikes than less expensive markets (the South and Midwest) because of the absolute dollar cost of the rate hikes and the limited ability to build new homes. As always, we will continue to monitor the housing and economic markets to best guide you in buying or selling your home.
Year to date, single-family home prices were up across the North Bay, while condo prices fell slightly. We expect seasonal trends to hold through the rest of the year and for home prices to remain fairly stable.
Sales, new listings, and inventory all fell from June to July, likely indicating the start of the typical seasonal decline across supply and demand metrics. Inventory remains depressed but has still grown significantly in 2023, which has helped alleviate some excess demand.
Months of Supply Inventory has declined significantly in 2023, homes are selling more quickly, and sellers are receiving a greater percentage of asking price, all of which highlight an increasingly competitive environment for buyers.
Note: You can find the charts/graphs for the Local Lowdown at the end of this section.
In the North Bay, the housing market is always experiencing high demand, especially in the spring and early summer months. Increasing demand and low, but rising inventory helped drive the rapid home price appreciation that the North Bay experienced in the first half of the year. Typically, demand begins to decline in July and August, so the consistently low supply may become less of an issue. However, less of an issue doesn’t mean a non-issue. Quality new listings will certainly be sold quickly, while less desirable homes will sit on the market. This isn’t unusual, but it’s more apparent due to current mortgage rates. Potential homebuyers aren’t nearly as willing to pay a premium for a fixer upper as they were in 2020 and 2021.
In July, the median single-family home prices were up year to date across North Bay counties. As sales and new listings slow in the second half of the year, home prices typically remain stable or decline at the margins.
Single-family home and condo inventory, sales, and new listings rose in the first half of the year, although all remain at depressed levels. Typically, inventory peaks in July or August and declines through December or January. Single-family home inventory seems to have peaked in June, so we will likely see fewer transactions in the coming months. Currently, inventory is so low relative to demand that any amount of new listings is good for the market. However, new listings were unusually low from January through July 2023, which has directly impacted both inventory and sales. The number of home sales is, in part, a function of the number of active listings and new listings coming to market. Since January 2023, sales jumped 83% while new listings rose 66%, whereas last year, for example, sales rose 36% and new listings increased 50% by July.
As tight inventory levels continue, sellers are gaining negotiating power. In January 2023, the average seller received 93% of list price compared to 98% of list in July. Inventory will almost certainly remain historically low for the year, and the market will remain competitive in the third quarter.
Months of Supply Inventory (MSI) quantifies the supply/demand relationship by measuring how many months it would take for all current homes listed on the market to sell at the current rate of sales. The long-term average MSI is around three months in California, which indicates a balanced market. An MSI lower than three indicates that there are more buyers than sellers on the market (meaning it’s a sellers’ market), while a higher MSI indicates there are more sellers than buyers (meaning it’s a buyers’ market). The North Bay market tends to favor sellers, especially for single-family homes, which is reflected in its low MSI. MSI has trended even lower over the past six months for single-family homes, meaning the market more strongly favors sellers. The sharp drop in MSI occurred due to the higher proportion of sales relative to active listings and less time on the market. The only exceptions are single-family homes and condos in Napa and condos in Marin, both of which are closer to a balanced market.
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