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Housing market trends to watch for in 2023

Improved affordability, stabilized mortgage rates, multifamily building and higher buyers’ agents commissions may all be in the cards next year

It is that time of year again – when experts across the housing industry gaze into their crystal balls, read their tea leaves and look to the stars to predict what is in store for the housing market in the year to come.

Given the wide range of forecasts for 2023, RealTrends decided to round up some of these predictions and got reactions from real estate agents from across the country. Here are eight predictions we’ll be tracking in 2023. 

Prediction 1: The affordability crisis will stabilize as home prices post the first year-over-year decrease in over a decade and mortgage rates decline, settling somewhere in the mid-5% to low-6% range.

As mortgage rates have risen to some of their highest levels in over a decade and properties in some metro areas have seen double-digit yearly home price appreciation, housing affordability challenges have become top of mind for many homeowners and prospective buyers. An increase in interest rates typically results in a decrease in home prices to account for buyers’ lost purchasing power. But with housing supply still historically low, home price decreases have been modest, and most are still up slightly compared to a year ago.

To boot, in recent weeks, mortgage rates have come down from the highs set earlier this fall, and price drops have become more common in many metros as homes are sitting longer on the market.

“I have clients who have been approved for a mortgage on a $200,000 property, but as rates have increased, they are now unable to afford what their monthly payment would be,” Stacy Pulliam, an Augusta, Georgia-based eXp Realty agent, said. “Affordability is a big challenge in my area. But homes are staying on the market an average of 110 days now in some local ZIP codes and we are seeing more price drops because of that.”

Out in San Diego, Alanna Strei, a local eXp agent, is also seeing price drops.

“A lot of homes on the market are overpriced and they are starting to be corrected,” Strei said. “Prices are dropping because they are priced wrong, not because the homes are losing value. We are still seeing multiple offer situations, and based on the research I have done, I do feel mortgage rates will stabilize around 6%, and that will bring more buyers back to the market.”

Prediction 2: Housing markets in the Midwest and Northeast will hold up best as the overall housing market cools.

With the steep declines in home buying activity in Western metros  like Boise and Austin that were red-hot just months ago, increasing affordability issues and fewer out of town buyers moving in make it easy to see where the real estate prophets are getting this prediction from.

“As affordability has become the key driver of both supply and demand in the market, places that still feature reasonable prices are already seeing momentum shift their way, and should have the healthiest housing markets in 2023,” Zillow’s prediction report stated.

Ruth Kennedy Sudduth, a New England-based LandVest Real Estate agent, agrees with the prognosticators at Zillow.

“Markets like Phoenix or Salt Lake or Boise are seriously down right now, but in New England, we have this anomaly of being seriously supply constrained, so prices will stay up and homes will hold their value,” Sudduth said.

Todd Armstrong, a San Diego-based Compass agent, understands what is informing this prediction, but from his viewpoint in sunny Southern California, he doesn’t see 2023 panning out exactly the same way.

“We have still been able to generate several listings,” he said. “It is slower than it was, and it can be challenging dealing with sellers who think they can get a lot more for their homes than what they are worth, but I have a lot of showings, and open houses are full on the weekends, so both buyers and sellers are still active in our market.”

Prediction 3: New construction will focus on multifamily rental properties.

As of June 2022, multifamily construction hit a historic high of 841,000 units under construction nationwide, according to research from the National Multifamily Housing Council and the National Apartment Association. In September, the number of multifamily housing starts rose 16.5% year over year to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 530,000, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In addition, the number of multifamily permits pulled rose 25.5% year over year, to a rate of 644,000.

Looking at these numbers, this prediction certainly appears to be on the right track. However, with interest rates taking a toll on developers, the number of multifamily units authorized but not yet started has also increased, jumping 33.3% year over year in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 144,000.

“Construction lending has sort of slowed to a crawl,” Peter DiCorpo, the co-founder and COO of Brook Farm Group, told HousingWire in November. “The whole market has seized up, plus institutional investors are really taking a pause right now on new opportunities. I would anticipate multifamily housing starts are probably going to be down 40% year over year in 2023, and I think that is going to be the same for single family home building, if not higher.”

Real estate agents interviewed by RealTrends they are still seeing most new construction efforts being focused on multifamily rental buildings.

“In my neighborhood, I can probably see six different cranes building mega complexes with 300 or 400 units each, and they are all rental properties,” Armstrong said.

Pulliam added: “In our urban core there is no more room, so they are building up, and when you build up, you are most often building multifamily rental properties. But even in more rural areas where we see mostly single family homes, we are seeing rental communities pop up.”

Prediction 4: Investor activity will cool, but we will see a surge in first-time landlords.

Forecasters at Redfin predict that investors will purchase about 25% fewer homes in 2023 than in 2022, as the investor business model of buying low and selling or renting high is less feasible now that it is more costly to borrow money.

“We are seeing less investors in our market right now,” Kent Redding, an Austin-based Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices agent, said. “Investors came in really hot and heavy when the needle was pulling straight up, and now that is more of a modest market and we are seeing a little less investor activity.”

For Pulliam in Augusta, Georgia, things look a bit different.

“My city is going through a revitalization and the city is really growing, so what we have been seeing is a lot of investors coming in and buying up these blighted properties and blighted areas. They just buy up whole neighborhoods and clean up the properties,” Pulliam said. “Judging by the number of calls I have been getting from investors, that trend does not seem to be going anywhere any time soon.”

As the investors in Pulliam’s native Augusta are either large corporations or hedge funds, Pulliam said it can be hard for first time investors and landlords to make inroads. Still, she is not counting out that possibility in a housing market environment that has been full of surprises over the past few years.

But while investor purchase activity may cool off, experts and real estate agents anticipate an uptick in first time landlord activity in the coming year. With home prices decreasing slightly in some metro areas from the highs set earlier this year, some home sellers have decided to rent their current property out instead of selling it as they look to move.

“Some sellers are still unrealistic, and they don’t understand that the market has changed and people are not going to pay what they would have three or four months ago for their property,” Mandy Nichols, a DFW-based Brixstone Real Estate agent, said. “Interest rates have cut buyers’ purchasing power and they can’t afford what they could a few months ago. And if you want to sell, you need to understand that.”

Nichols said she has worked with sellers who, despite receiving multiple offers, are ultimately deciding to lease the property because a bidding war didn’t develop, leading the sellers to become first time landlords.

Prediction 5: Buying with friends and family will gain momentum.

As housing affordability becomes more of a struggle for many, industry seers are predicting that it will become increasingly more common to see groups of friends or family members purchase a property together. With fractional ownership products, such as Pacaso and Arrived Homes, becoming more widespread, it is easy to see why experts feel this trend will grow.

Armstrong said he has noticed this trend starting to take off in the second home and investment property markets, as extended families or groups of friends band together to purchase a vacation destination property that they all have access to and can collect vacation rental or Airbnb income from when not in use by an owner.

“My core group of friends and I typically go up to Palm Springs together and rent a house for a week,” Armstrong said. “But we have started looking for a property there to buy together that we could rent out when we aren’t using it.”

Prediction 6: Migration from one part of the country to another will ease from its pandemic boom.

Even prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Austin housing market was heating up, but as remote work opened up more possibilities for where workers could live, the relative affordability of markets like Austin were decimated as these cities and metros attracted even more homebuyers. But as COVID restrictions in other parts of the country have been lifted and workers have been asked to come back into the office, Austin has seen the deluge of out-of-town buyers in the market let up.

“Everyone is kind of reevaluating their location right now and taking a step back,” Scott Michaels, an Austin-based Compass agent, said. “Plus, the market is slowing in other places as well, so even if you are in Chicago and want to relocate to Austin, you might not be able to move if you can’t sell your existing home. So, some people might be putting their relocations on hold as they wait for more favorable market conditions in their current metro area.”

However, Redfin notes that cross country relocation will not disappear completely, as the firm predicts the share of Americans moving from one metro to another will slow to about 20% in 2023, down from 24% this year, which is still above the pre-pandemic level of roughly 18%.

Prediction 7: Rising disaster-insurance costs will make extremely climate risky homes even more expensive.

According to Redfin, the rising cost of property insurance as well as fire and flood insurance in high-risk areas such as beachfront Florida and the hills of California will price some homebuyers, and even current local homeowners, out of these metro areas.

In Florida, property insurance premiums have risen 33% year over year in 2022 and are expected to increase even further in 2023 to help offset costs incurred after Hurricane Ian destroyed parts of the coastline in September. In California, many private insurers have stopped covering homes at high risk of wildfires, meaning homeowners are having to use government-backed insurance.

“Fire insurance is currently not widely available through traditional carriers, so people are having to use the government program, the California FAIR Plan, which can be anywhere from $3,500 to $5,000 a year,” Shane Collins, a RE/MAX agent in Paradise, California, which was essentially destroyed in the November 2018 Camp Fire, told HousingWire last December.

In addition, while low-cost fire insurance may be available through a traditional carrier on one property, that doesn’t mean it will be available at a neighboring parcel.

With costs only expected to rise further, along with the increased frequency of natural disasters, and disaster insurance becoming a prerequisite for a mortgage in many high-risk areas, it is easy to see how many buyers could be priced out of areas like Paradise in the near future.

Prediction 8: Buyers’ agent commissions will rise slightly.

While no one can predict what changes may arise from the Department of Justice’s investigation into the National Association of Realtors or the verdicts of the “buyer broker commission” lawsuits, with lower transaction volume anticipated in 2023, it may seem counterintuitive that buyer broker commissions will rise in the new year. However, that is exactly what forecasters at Redfin are predicting. Their rationale is that declines in home prices and sales will prop up buyers’ agent commissions from the typical rate in 2022, which is 2.63% of the home’s sale price.

Out in San Diego, Armstrong says he could see this happening if the market continues to slow down.

“Back in 2008, if I had a listing that had been sitting or something that needed to sell, I just increased the buyers’ broker commission to 4%,” Armstrong said. “I sold properties like crazy using that tactic and I’d use it again if I needed to.”

Pulliam has also noticed some sellers’ agents using this strategy in her metro area. In addition, she highlighted the increased incentives and higher commission splits she currently sees offered by local builders as another way buyer broker commissions could increase in 2023.

“During the height of the pandemic, builders weren’t giving commissions here, but now interest rates are high, and builders have already started projects and need to offload their inventory, so they are offering more incentives and higher commissions to bring in more agents and their buyers,” Pulliam said.