Home buyers had enough. Spiked mortgage rates on top of record home price appreciation—up 42% since the onset of the pandemic—pushed monthly mortgage payments to a level that is simply unattainable for tens of millions of would-be buyers. As more buyers take a rain check, the housing market correction only gets more intense.
This week, we learned that on a year-over-year basis, mortgage purchase applications are down 18%. While new home sales are down 17%, and single-family housing starts are down 16%.
Even as housing transactions plummeted, we’ve still not returned to a balanced market. Inventory levels remain a staggering 49% below July 2019 levels, giving most sellers—at least for now—enough leverage to hold off on selling below market comps hit earlier this year. That said, as inventory levels continue to rise, it’s possible some regional housing markets might actually see year-over-year house price declines in 2023.
On Friday, Redfin released its “risk score,” which identifies the housing markets that are at the highest risk of a “housing downturn.” The higher a market’s “risk score,” the higher the likelihood that market could see a year-over-year decline in house prices. In total, Redfin looked at 98 regional housing markets and assessed factors including home-price volatility, average debt-to-income ratio and home-price growth.
Among the 98 markets measured by Redfin, Riverside had the highest likelihood of seeing a “housing downturn.” It was followed by Boise, Cape Coral, North Port, Las Vegas, Sacramento, Bakersfield, Phoenix, Tampa, and Tucson.
“Popular migration destinations where home prices soared during the pandemic—including Boise, Phoenix, and Tampa—are most likely to see the effects of a housing downturn amplified and home prices decline year-over-year if the economy goes into a recession, a scenario that some economists believe looks likely as inflation persists and stock markets stumble. Homeowners in those areas who are considering selling may want to list their homes soon to avoid potential price declines,” writes the Redfin researchers.
The sellers least likely to see prices fall? Redfin says Akron. Not too far behind it are markets like Philadelphia, El Paso, Cleveland, and Cincinnati. As the pandemic housing boom took off, homeowners in those places saw less investor activity and more modest levels of house price growth. Amid the boom, homeowners in places like Akron surely had FOMO as they watched their peers in Austin and Boise experience exorbitant levels of house price growth. But now homeowners in markets like Akron and Cleveland are likely thankful: Historically speaking, the sharpest housing corrections usually come in the fastest-growing markets.
“Relatively affordable northern metros—several of them in the Rust Belt, such as Cleveland and Buffalo—are most resilient in the event of a recession. Prospective homebuyers in those areas can move ahead with confidence that they’re less likely to see home values decline,” writes the Redfin researchers.
Every quarter, Moody’s Analytics calculates an “overvalued” or “undervalued” figure for around 400 markets. The firm aims to find out whether fundamentals, including local income levels, could support local home prices. It’s only troubling when a housing market becomes significantly “overvalued.” The bad news? In the first quarter of 2006, the median US housing market was “overvalued” by 14.5%. In the first quarter of 2022, Moody’s estimates the median regional housing market was “overvalued” by 23%.
Simply being detached from underlying economic fundamentals does not guarantee that a market will see plummeting home prices. However, as a market becomes significantly “overvalued” it increases the odds of falling house prices if both a housing correction and a recession hit. Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi tells Fortune that housing markets “overvalued” by more than 25% are likely to see 5% to 10% house price declines. If a recession hits, price drops could be as large as 15% to 20% in those markets.
Already, we’re seeing “bubbly” markets like Boise and Austin see the swiftest corrections. Just look at inventory. Over the past six months, inventory levels have spiked 161% and 220% in Boise and Austin, respectively.
Earlier this month, John Burns Real Estate Consulting told Fortune that Boise is poised to be the first housing market to post a year-over-year price decline. The real estate research company predicts it could come as soon as December. For that to happen, house prices in Boise would not only have to erase all their spring 2022 gains, but also fall below their December 2021 price.
“You could make a strong case that in a lot of housing markets the last 10% of home price appreciation was purely aspirational and irrational, and that’ll come off the top really fast,” Rick Palacios Jr., head of research at John Burns Real Estate Consulting “That’s exactly what we’re all seeing right now.”
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