Sharply higher mortgage rates have caused a sudden pullback in home sales, and now sellers are rushing to get in before the red-hot market cools off dramatically.
The supply of homes for sale jumped 9% last week compared with the same period a year ago, according to Realtor.com. That is the biggest annual gain the company has recorded since it began tracking the metric in 2017.
Real estate brokerage Redfin also reported that new listings rose nearly twice as fast in the four weeks ended May 15as they did during the same period a year ago.
A For Sale sign is displayed in front of a house in Washington, DC.
Stefani Reynolds | Afp | Getty Images
“Rising mortgage rates have caused the housing market to shift, and now home sellers are in a hurry to find a buyer before demand weakens further,” said Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather.
Sellers clearly see the market softening. Pending home sales, a measure of signed contracts on existing homes, dropped nearly 4% in April from March. They were down just over 9% from April 2021, according to the National Association of Realtors. This index measures signed contracts on existing homes, not closings, so it is perhaps the most timely indicator of how buyers are reacting to higher mortgage rates. It marks the sixth straight month of sales declines and the slowest pace in nearly a decade.
April sales of newly built homes, also measured by signed contracts, dropped a much wider-than-expected 16% compared with March, according to the U.S. Census.
Sales are slowing because mortgage rates have risen sharply since the start of the year, with the biggest gains in April and early May. The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage started the year close to 3% and is now well over 5%.
“We used to get 10 to 15 offers on most houses,” said Lindsay Katz, a real estate broker at Redfin in the Los Angeles area. “Now I’m seeing between two and six offers on a house, a good house.”
Katz worked with Alexandra Stocker and her husband to sell their home. The Stockers were already worried that the red-hot housing market was suddenly chilling.
“We talked about that a lot. Like, are we making mistake here? Are we missing the boat? Is everything going to crash in the next three months and we’re going to kick ourselves for not selling our house earlier this year?” said Alexandra Stocker.
While home prices rose steadily during the first two years of the Covid pandemic, falling mortgage rates largely offset those increases.
For example: In May 2019, a buyer purchasing a $300,000 home with a 20% down payment and a 30-year fixed mortgage would get an average interest rate of around 4.33%. The monthly payment of principal and interest would be $1,192. In 2020, that same house was 5% more expensive, but mortgage rates fell to 3.41%, …….