Is the housing market getting worse — or better?
It’s easy to get caught up in the headlines — especially when they’re largely negative. “Mortgage rates are rising; Home prices are at record highs; There just aren’t enough homes to buy.”
While there’s some truth to those statements, they can paint a picture of a challenging housing market that’s just not worth the work. But according to mortgage expert Arjun Dhingra, the opposite may be true.
“We’re not entering a bad housing market,” Dhingra said on a recent episode of The Mortgage Reports Podcast. “We actually just left one.” Here’s what he means — and how it could impact hopeful home buyers.
Listen to Arjun on The Mortgage Reports Podcast!
Leaving a “savagely unhealthy” market behind
The housing market has been what Dhingra calls “savagely unhealthy” for years. “Housing, as an asset class, was probably the hottest sector of the U.S. economy through the COVID years,” Dhingra said. “There was nothing normal about that market that we just left.”
A few different factors drove the clamor for real estate during that period. For one, people were reevaluating where they lived during the pandemic. With remote work in place, they were able to move to spots with lower home prices, more space, lower taxes, or ones that were closer to friends and family.
Higher rates have “pushed some buyers out or given people some reason to pause. What that means for you as a buyer is less competition — less chance of a bidding war.”
There were also record-low mortgage rates, which pushed people off the sidelines and into the housing market, perhaps earlier than they would have done otherwise.
Between those rock-bottom rates, low levels of housing supply, and all the extra demand, the housing market took off. High prices, bidding wars, and lightning-fast selling times became the norm.
“It was a market that has never been seen before in U.S. housing,” Dhingra said. “But there’s nothing good or normal about a market where homes are selling in literally minutes or only on the market for a matter of days with lines out the door and 50 offers coming in.”
How the housing market is normalizing
We’re a few months out from the frenzied days of the pandemic market, and that’s largely due to rising mortgage rates. As of mid-September, rates on 30-year loans were sitting just over 6% — quite the jump from the sub-3% rates we saw over the last two years.
But, as Dhingra explained on the podcast, “Mortgage rates are not actually high. We have to remember that they were being kept artificially low by the Fed, so those weren’t really real rates. Yes, it’s great for those people over the last few years that did get them, but rates kind of crept up to where they should be.”
What’s more? Those rates are actually helping to moderate the market and bring it back to a more healthy state. Higher rates have “pushed some buyers out or just given people some reason to pause,” says Dhingra. “What that means for you as a buyer is less competition — less chance of a bidding war.”
Lower prices and seller negotiations are back
Rising rates and less competition also mean buyers don’t have to over-bid as much just to win a home. And these conditions are forcing sellers to negotiate more, too.
“In the market that we were in over the last few years, sellers would have been sitting at that table just pompously sticking their noses up in the air and saying ‘Bring me your best and final offer,’ and whoever pays the most for this place is who’s gonna get it,” Dhingra said. “They can’t say that anymore. It’s a normal true market. Buyers and sellers have to sit down at the table together and negotiate — come up with a fair price and come up with fair terms.”
So if you’re hunting for a home, conditions are much better than they were a few months ago. You might get a better price and have an easier time winning the home. And if you get a higher mortgage rate than you would’ve last year? Consider it temporary, and plan to refinance a few years down the road.
“What we always have to remember about mortgage rates is that they go up and down,” Dhingra said. “There’s very, very strong likelihood that we could be maybe a year — plus or minus a few months — from seeing lower mortgage rates again.”
Focus on you, not the market
At the end of the day, buying a home is a personal decision, and you should act when it’s right for your lifestyle and finances — not when the market says so.
“If the timing is right for you, and the price points now are in line with what you are hoping to get, don’t fixate on the interest rate because it doesn’t really matter,” Dhingra says. “You won’t have it long enough to really realize whether or not it was a good rate or a bad rate. Focus on the payment, affordability and, of course, the home being the one that you want — which you can now get for likely a cheaper price than you were able to six months ago.”