Many Americans are ready to turn the corner on COVID-19 as the spring of 2022 arrives, but the pandemic’s effects on U.S. home-buying patterns may linger for a long time to come.
The housing market swooned when the contagion first hit American shores in the early spring of 2020, just about the time of year U.S. home sales would traditionally begin to warm up.
Wary builders cut production and mortgage lenders and real estate agencies braced for the worst. Less than two months later came what nearly no one expected.
Amid ongoing restrictions and increases in remote work and schooling, home sales exploded in a frenzy of activity, turning the market on its ear. The growing demand was fanned by ultra-low mortgage rates.
The nation’s predictable seasonal home sales patterns went right out the window. A major buying boom hit during late summer 2020, then actually accelerated in fall and winter. Despite rapidly rising prices and diminishing inventory, demand has remained incredibly strong.
With a major shortage of new and existing listings to fill the demand, today's buyers now face fierce competition and price appreciation, no matter the time of year. The U.S. is short more than 5 million homes, and homebuilders would have to double production to close the gap in five to six years.
It is possible that seasonality and the ability to plan will return to the market naturally. In some areas, the realities of weather and the school year already make it difficult for families to move in the fall or winter.
With inflation currently hitting beyond the home market, the Federal Reserve increased its baseline rates for the first time since 2018. Mortgage rates aren’t directly affected, but tend to follow federal policy over time.
Mortgage rates have surged to the highest rates since May 2019.
Since September 2021. the cost of a monthly mortgage payment for a median-priced home has increased by more than 27%, split roughly half and half between rising prices and rising rates.
The Mortgage Bankers Association shows that the number of applications for loans used to purchase homes is down more than 8% compared to a year ago. Comparatively, demand for refinancing has dropped nearly 50% versus last year.
Interest rates are expected to continue rising this year and probably into 2023. While prices may moderate as a result, higher interest rates have a more lasting effect on buyer pocketbooks.