Over the past year, the conversation around housing affordability has been buzzing, highlighting the increasing challenges many face. However, there’s a glimmer of relief as mortgage rates have recently taken a downward turn from their peak in October. Still, it’s crucial to recognize that the affordability of a home involves a nuanced interplay of three key factors: mortgage rates, home prices, and wages. Let’s delve into the latest data for each to understand why affordability is experiencing a positive shift.
1. Mortgage Rates
In recent months, mortgage rates have seen a decline, and the outlook suggests a continued downward trend throughout the year. Economist Jiayi Xu from Realtor.com explains, “While there could be some fluctuations in the path forward … the general expectation is that mortgage rates will continue to trend downward, as long as the economy continues to see progress on inflation.” Even a modest shift in mortgage rates can significantly impact purchasing power, easing the burden by reducing monthly mortgage payments.
2. Home Prices
The second crucial factor is home prices, which, after a steady climb last year, are anticipated to continue growing moderately in 2024. Despite a projected increase in inventory, the demand still outpaces supply. According to Lisa Sturtevant, Chief Economist at Bright MLS, “More inventory will be generally offset by more buyers in the market. As a result, it is expected that, overall, the median home price in the U.S. will grow modestly…” This is good news for potential buyers, signaling that prices are unlikely to experience the dramatic surges witnessed during the pandemic. However, waiting might also mean a higher cost, so if you’re ready to buy, seizing the opportunity before prices rise further might be prudent.
Adding to the positive momentum in affordability is the rise in income. The graph below, using data from the Federal Reserve, illustrates the growth of wages over time. The blue dotted trendline showcases the typical rate at which wages rise. However, on the right side of the graph, wages are currently above the trendline, indicating a higher-than-normal growth rate. Elevated wages enhance affordability by reducing the percentage of income needed to cover mortgage payments, as a smaller portion of your paycheck is allocated to housing costs.
What This Means for You
In essence, home affordability hinges on the dynamic interplay of mortgage rates, home prices, and wages. The encouraging news is that these factors are aligning positively with buyers overall.
For those contemplating a home purchase, understanding that the primary factors influencing affordability are on an upward trajectory is crucial. To stay abreast of the latest developments in each of these areas, it’s advisable to connect with a trusted real estate agent.