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Tuesday, May 09, 2023

House Price Battle Royale: Low Inventory vs Affordability

by Calculated Risk on 5/09/2023 10:33:00 AM

Today, in the Calculated Risk Real Estate Newsletter: House Price Battle Royale: Low Inventory vs Affordability

Brief excerpt:

I’ve been wrestling with the impact on house prices of the rapid increase in mortgage rates and monthly payments over the last year. My reaction was the current situation was somewhat similar to the 1978 to 1982 period and we would see prices decline in real terms (adjusted for inflation). See from March 2022: Housing: Don't Compare the Current Housing Boom to the Bubble and Bust.

In that article I wrote on prices:
[W]e should expect something similar to the what happened in the late ‘70s - a decline in real house prices seems likely … Currently we just have to watch and wait. However, we can be fairly confident that we won’t see cascading nominal price declines like during the housing bust - since there will be few distressed sales.
In the 1980 period, nominal prices only declined slightly on a month-to-month basis a few times according to the Case-Shiller National house price index. However, real prices - adjusted for inflation - declined 10.7% from the peak. The inflation adjusted peak was in October 1979, and real prices didn’t exceed that peak until May 1986 (See from October 2022: House Prices: 7 Years in Purgatory).

Note that if we use the Freddie Mac House Price Index, nominal prices declined 6.9% in the early 1980s, and real prices declined 17.5%!

As I noted in “7 Years in Purgatory”:
Earlier this year, I argued the most likely path for house prices was for nominal prices to “stall”, and for real prices (inflation adjusted) to decline over several years. The arguments for a stall included historically low inventory levels, mostly solid lending over the last decade, and that house prices tend to be sticky downwards. … However, we are already seeing nominal house price declines on a national basis.
And the historically low level of inventory is a key reason house prices haven’t declined more to date. As of February, the Case-Shiller National Index was off 2.8% in nominal terms (seasonally adjusted), and off 4.6% in real terms.

Here is a look at the house price battle between low inventory and affordability.
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