Real Estate

published : 2023-10-21

2023 Housing Market Projected to Have Fewest Sales Since 2008 as Mortgage Rates Rise

Mortgage Rates are at Their Highest in Over 2 Decades

A couple standing in front of a 'For Sale' sign, contemplating the impact of rising mortgage rates on their housing plans. (Taken with Canon EOS 5D Mark IV)

Economists project 2023 will mark the slowest home sales year since the housing bubble burst in 2008.

Redfin estimated there will only be roughly 4.1 million sales of existing homes across the nation by year's end due to persistently high mortgage rates — now hovering at 7.63% — and low inventory scaring buyers away.

Just last month, sales retreated 15.4% from the previous year, according to data from the National Association of Realtors.

Sales receded in all regions except for the Northeast in September, the data showed.

With rates sitting at their highest levels in over two decades, a growing number of buyers are sitting on the sidelines and questioning whether 2023 is the right time to move.

Data released Wednesday by the Mortgage Bankers Association showed mortgage applications dropped to the lowest level since 1995.

An economist analyzing housing market trends on a computer screen, trying to decipher the reasons for the slowest home sales year since 2008. (Taken with Nikon D850)

"Mortgage rates are staying high longer than anticipated, keeping away everyone except those who need to move and pushing our sales projection for the year down to a 15-year low," said Chen Zhao, Redfin’s economic research lead.

The last time sales were this low was during the Great Recession, when the tough economic conditions and slow demand drove home prices down as much as 30% year over year in some parts of the country, according to Zhao.

In 2008, the housing market crashed due to a combination of the subprime mortgage crisis, high levels of debt and a lack of financial regulation, according to Norada Real Estate Investments.

It led to a severe economic recession that impacted millions of Americans, many of whom found themselves in homes worth less than their mortgages.

However, given that home prices plummeted, it opened up opportunities for first-timers to buy starter homes.

That's not the case today, Redfin said. With such high rates, more homebuyers are staying put, which has further exacerbated inventory issues.

A close-up of a graph showing the fluctuating mortgage rates over the past two decades, illustrating the current highest rates in years. (Taken with Sony Alpha A7R III)

Redfin’s Homebuyer Demand Index, which measures early-stage demand indicators such as tours, also fell to its lowest level in a year.

During the four weeks ending Oct. 15, there were nearly 14% fewer homes on the market as homeowners held onto lower borrowing rates.

There has been a small reprieve as new listings climbed slightly this fall. Still, buyers may benefit from looking into new construction.

According to Redfin, sales of newly built homes are holding up better than existing home sales partly because builders "aren’t locked in by low rates, and they’re often more motivated than homeowners to close a deal."

New construction home sales in the U.S. increased 1.5% year over year last month while prices dropped about 4%, according to data from the brokerage.