Figuring out when to plunge into the real estate market can be quite intimidating—especially when prices are high, choices are limited, and history urges restraint.
We’ve seen two or three years of what could be considered unsustainable levels of price appreciation, as well as an inventory shortage that resulted in a record-low number of homes for sale across the country. When you factor those together, you have a market that has to either explode or see some relief.
Comforting, right? Well, take heart: Experts agree that relief is indeed on the horizon.
New predictions for 2018 forecast more moderate gains in home prices and rising inventory levels, while low unemployment and record levels of consumer confidence mean more buyers are feeling good about their finances.
A lot depends on where you live (and how much you plan to finance), but these factors combined could mean 2018 will be your year to take the buying plunge.
1. Rates are going up
After years of record-low interest rates (hello, 3%!), the Fed is finally making some noticeable increases: The rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage broke the 4% mark last year. And with economic growth continuing to carry momentum, Vivas predicts we'll see at least two to four more rate increases throughout 2018. Rates are anticipated to hit 5% by the end of the year.
The more buyers wait, the more expensive it will get to buy—not just because of home prices, but because of inflationary pressure.
2. Prices are climbing, but not crazily fast
Home prices have soared over the past few years, pricing otherwise well-positioned buyers out of high-cost areas and leading some experts to cry "bubble". But in 2018, price increases are expected to moderate.
Of course, it all depends on where you live. While red-hot markets such as San Francisco are predicted to finally lose some steam, sales numbers and home prices are poised to climb in Southern states such as Texas and Florida, where economic momentum continues chugging along and new construction is happening in the right price points.
So what does that mean? Basically, home prices will still increase, but not at the same pace as they have over the past few years.
3. Inventory levels will begin to increase
An inventory shortage has plagued the U.S. housing market since 2015, forcing some buyers to settle (a tiny house with linoleum floors for $1 million, anyone?) and keeping others out of the buying game entirely. But by fall 2018, the tides will begin to turn, with markets such as Boston; Detroit; and Nashville, TN, recovering first.
The majority of inventory growth will happen in the middle- to upper-tier price point, in the ranges of $350,000 and $750,000 and above $750,000, Vivas predicts.
New home construction is also expected to expand. But that will happen slowly, thanks to a constricted labor market, limitations on the amount of lots and land that's available, tight bank financing for building loans, and a run-up in building material prices.
The wildcard: Taxes and politics
When the Republican tax plan was introduced, the proposed elimination of the mortgage interest deduction was all anyone could talk about: While the new limitations on the deduction will affect only 2.5% of all existing mortgages in the U.S.
Across the board, experts agree that the new tax plan decreases incentives for homeownership and reduces the tax benefits of owning a home—particularly in highly taxed, expensive markets such as California, Illinois, New York, and New Jersey. But on the flip side, that means that if fewer folks are motivated to buy, then there’s less competition for those who want in the game. Plus, some taxpayers—including renters—will see a tax cut. That increase in buyers' disposable income could spur demand from folks who are looking to build equity as a homeowner, rather than flushing away their savings in rent.
John Castelli, Realtor