Housing market forecast : Experts weigh in on 2018 real estate

December 1, 2017 - 5 min read

Housing market forecast calls for strong opinions

With the year quickly coming to an end, it’s natural to look ahead to 2018. If you’re shopping for a home, you’re likely wondering how the housing market will fare next year. No one knows exactly what will happen, but forecasts from experts can be helpful.

We asked a few market pros to predict real estate matters in 2018. Some were hopeful that conditions could improve for buyers — even those yearning for their first home. Others expect a year similar to 2017. That would mean continued high prices and low supply.

Curious what the experts foresee? Read on for their insights and prognoses. It may help guide your choices in the near future.

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2017 in quick review

Clifford Rossi, a business professor at the University of Maryland, says this year’s market is ending on a strong note.

“Home prices were up over six percent year-over-year in September 2017. Median sales prices for existing homes are $247,000. That’s up about 5.5 percent from last year ,” he says. “And interest rates continue to be low. Freddie Mac is currently reporting fixed rates for 30-year loans at 3.92 percent.”

Kurt Westfield, managing partner with WC Equity Group, agrees that 2017 marked a robust period for real estate.

“The housing market has continued to rise since its historic collapse nearly a decade ago. It’s quite healthy today,” says Westfield.

Looking ahead six to 12 months

Many believe 2018 will continue these trends.

“Home prices nationally are set to continue growing between three and six percent. Home sales will be similar or down a little,” predicts Dr. Ralph DeFranco, global chief economist with Arch Mortgage Group.

Westfield remains bullish on the overall market.

Harvard research: the future of home prices in 2017 and 2018

“Certain sectors and locations will perform better than others and retain core stability. There will likely be some softening in the market as interest rates continue to increase, as expected, and valuations continue to mature. But 12 months from now, valuations may cool down to a meager one percent increase,” says Westfield.

Burke Smith, chief strategy officer for Realty ONE Group, also doesn’t see home prices coming down anytime soon.

“The number of new homes for sale has started to increase. But 2018 buyers won’t receive a break from inflated home prices in the early part of the year due to the overall inventory shortage. As in 2017, there will be too many buyers for too few listings,” says Smith.

Other predictions

Yet, “even the smallest increase in demand could encourage home builders to get out and build more homes. That mean things could look better for buyers by spring 2018,” Smith adds.

Mike Pappas, president/CEO of The Keyes Company, isn’t so sure.

“If more inventory does come onto the market, it will be quickly absorbed. This will be due to low interest rates and pent up demand by first-time buyers,” says Pappas.

Expect more homes to sit for longer on the market next year, too, notes Westfield.

“Currently, homes are staying on the market for an average of three weeks ,” he says. “But that length of time will start to creep upward as sellers push the envelope as to what their homes can be sold at.”

The great rate debate

Pappas and others foresee interest rates slowly inching higher next year.

“Rates could rise to 4.5 and possibly five percent by the end of 2018,” says Pappas. “Continued increases by the Federal Reserve and a possible rise in inflation due to a tight labor market could be the reasons why.”

Craig Garcia, president of Capital Partners Mortgage, agrees.

“The Mortgage Bankers Association and Freddie Mac have predicted gradual increases in 30-year fixed rates to 4.8 and 4.6 percent , respectively. A rate of 4.6 percent seems a very reasonable speculation,” says Garcia.

Rossi, on the other hand, only sees rates going up 30 to 50 basis points in 2018. That equates to below 4.5 percent.

Uncle Sam’s impact

The government could also affect market matters. For instance, Congress’ current push for tax reform could end up hurting housing. That’s because the mortgage interest deduction (MID) may be capped at $500,000 on new loans.

Local and state property tax breaks could go away. And home sellers may have to pay more in taxes at closing.

“Right now this tax plan looks bad for the real estate industry. Buyers would lose incentives to buy a home. And owners will have lots of incentives to stay put to keep their full MID and wait out the exemption for their capital gains,” Smith says.

“The bill also eliminates moving expense deductions.”

Rossi concurs that the tax plan may dampen demand for homes in 2018, as it’s currently drafted.

“But it should wind up having a limited impact on the market as owners adjust and offsets from lower tax rates kick in,” says Rossi.

Other wildcards could suppress the market’s momentum as well.

“These range from geopolitical disturbances to the 2018 midterm elections to the Fed’s direction in the wake of a number of new appointees,” Rossi notes.

Buy or hold?

Ask the pros and most will advise you to purchase if you afford it in 2018.

“Major positives right now are job growth and the success of the stock market,” says Burke. “These factors, combined with historically low interest rates, still make affording the American dream more attainable than ever.”

DeFranco says there’s no time like the present.

“If it’s the right time in your life to buy a home, buy something now. The sooner someone is willing and able to make the jump from renting to owning, the better,” says DeFranco.

Steps you can take

The first step is to determine your price range and mortgage capacity, says Michael Goldrick, chief lending officer for PCSB Bank.

“Also, make sure your credit report is correct and as strong as possible,” Goldrick says. “And research programs you may qualify for offered by local banks, your home state, and the federal government.”

Garcia’s advice? Consult with a mortgage expert. This pro can tell you what your current buying power is and estimate monthly payments.

Check the Home Affordability Calculator to see how much home you can buy today

“Ask them for tips on enhancing your credit score and paying down your debt,” says Garcia.

Also, “identify a good real estate agent who can guide you on finding a home and preparing you for each step,” Rossi says.

What are today’s mortgage rates?

While most experts agree that mortgage interest rates will be higher next year, right now, they are still very affordable. In fact, current mortgage rates have changed very little in the entire last quarter of 2017, so far.

Check with a few completing lenders now to see where you stand, and how well you can do.

Time to make a move? Let us find the right mortgage for you

Erik J. Martin
Authored By: Erik J. Martin
The Mortgage Reports contributor
Erik J. Martin has written on real estate, business, tech and other topics for Reader's Digest, AARP The Magazine, and The Chicago Tribune.