Home prices have started to correct as interest rates rose sharply in 2022. However, the real problem for home prices is still coming in 2023 as the standoff between sellers and buyers comes to a head.
However, before we get there, let’s review how we got here.
Since the turn of the century, there have been two housing bubbles, with home prices reaching levels of unaffordability not previously seen in the United States. Such was, of course, due to lax lending policies and artificially low-interest rates luring financially unstable individuals into buying homes they could not afford. Such is easily seen in the chart below, which shows home equity versus mortgage debt. (Home equity is the difference between home prices and the underlying debt.)
The current surge in home prices makes the previous bubble in 2008 look quaint by comparison.
At that previous peak in 2007, the equity in people’s homes was around $15 trillion, while mortgage debt stood at $9 trillion. When the bubble popped, home prices collapsed, flipping homeowner’s equity from positive to negative. Home equity is roughly $30 trillion, while mortgage debts have increased to roughly $12 trillion. That is an incredible spread, unlike anything seen previously.
However, this time, the surge in home prices wasn’t due to a surge in lax underwriting by mortgage companies but rather the infusion of capital directly to households following the COVID-19 pandemic-driven shutdown.
Of course, many young Millennials took that money and jumped into the home-buying frenzy. In many cases, buying sight unseen or willing to pay way over the asking price (thereby inflating home prices.) To wit: