In early January, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their most recent Jobs Report. The report revealed that the economy lost 140,000 jobs in December. That’s a devastating number and dramatically impacts those households that lost a source of income. However, we need to give it some context. Greg Ip, Chief Economics Commentator at the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), explains:
“The economy is probably not slipping back into recession. The drop was induced by new restrictions on activity as the pandemic raged out of control. Leisure and hospitality, which includes restaurants, hotels, and amusement parks, tumbled 498,000.”
In the same report, Michael Pearce, Senior U.S. Economist of Capital Economics, agreed:
“The 140,000 drop in non-farm payrolls was entirely due to a massive plunge in leisure and hospitality employment, as bars and restaurants across the country have been forced to close in response to the surge in coronavirus infections. With employment in most other sectors rising strongly, the economy appears to be carrying more momentum into 2021 than we had thought.”
Once the vaccine is distributed throughout the country and the pandemic is successfully under control, the vast majority of those 480,000 jobs will come back.
Here are two additional comments from other experts, also reported by the WSJ that day:
Nick Bunker, Head of Research in North America for Indeed:
“These numbers are distressing, but they are reflective of the time when coronavirus vaccines were not rolled out and federal fiscal policy was still deadlocked. Hopefully, the recent legislation can help build a bridge to a time when vaccines are fully rolled out and the labor market can sustainably heal.”
Micheal Feroli, Chief Economist for JP Morgan Chase:
“The good news in today’s report is that outside the hopefully temporary hit to the food service industry, the rest of the labor market appears to be holding in despite the latest public health challenges.”
What impact will this have on the real estate market in 2021?
Some are concerned that with millions of Americans unemployed, we may see distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales) dominate the housing market once again. Rick Sharga, Executive Vice President at RealtyTrac, along with most other experts, doesn’t believe that will be the case:
“There are reasons to be cautiously optimistic despite massive unemployment levels and uncertainty about government policies under the new Administration. But while anything is possible, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see another foreclosure tsunami or housing market crash.”
For the households that lost a wage earner, these are extremely difficult times. Hopefully, the new stimulus package will lessen some of their pain. The health crisis, however, should vastly improve by mid-year with expectations that the jobs market will also progress significantly.
According to the latest CoreLogic Home Price Insights Report, nationwide home values increased by 8.2% over the last twelve months. The dramatic rise was brought about as the inventory of homes for sale reached historic lows at the same time buyer demand was buoyed by record-low mortgage rates. As CoreLogic explained:
“Home price growth remained consistently elevated throughout 2020. Home sales for the year are expected to register above 2019 levels. Meanwhile, the availability of for-sale homes has dwindled as demand increased and coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreaks continued across the country, which delayed some sellers from putting their homes on the market.
While the pandemic left many in positions of financial insecurity, those who maintained employment and income stability are also incentivized to buy given the record-low mortgage rates available; this is increasing buyer demand while for-sale inventory is in short supply.”
Where will home values go in 2021?
Home price appreciation in 2021 will continue to be determined by this imbalance of supply and demand. If supply remains low and demand is high, prices will continue to increase.
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the current number of single-family homes for sale is 1,080,000. At the same time last year, that number stood at 1,450,000. We are entering 2021 with approximately 270,000 fewer homes for sale than there were one year ago.
However, there is some speculation that the inventory crush will ease somewhat as we move through the new year for two reasons:
1. As the health crisis eases, more homeowners will be comfortable putting their houses on the market.
2. Some households impacted financially by the pandemic will be forced to sell.
Low mortgage rates have driven buyer demand over the last twelve months. According to Freddie Mac, rates stood at 3.72% at the beginning of 2020. Today, we’re starting 2021 with rates one full percentage point lower than that. Low rates create a great opportunity for homebuyers, which is one reason why demand is expected to remain high throughout the new year.
Taking into consideration these projections on housing supply and demand, real estate analysts forecast homes will continue to appreciate in 2021, but that appreciation may be at a steadier pace than last year. Here are their forecasts:
There’s still a very limited number of homes for sale for the great number of purchasers looking to buy them. As a result, the concept of “supply and demand” mandates that home values in the country will continue to appreciate.
Pending Home Sales increased by 44.3% in May, registering the highest month-over-month gain in the index since the National Association of Realtors (NAR) started tracking this metric in January 2001. So, what exactly are pending home sales, and why is this rebound so important?
According to NAR, the Pending Home Sales Index (PHS) is:
“A leading indicator of housing activity, measures housing contract activity, and is based on signed real estate contracts for existing single-family homes, condos, and co-ops. Because a home goes under contract a month or two before it is sold, the Pending Home Sales Index generally leads Existing-Home Sales by a month or two.”
In real estate, pending home sales is a key indicator in determining the strength of the housing market. As mentioned before, it measures how many existing homes went into contract in a specific month. When a buyer goes through the steps to purchase a home, the final one is the closing. On average, that happens about two months after the contract is signed, depending on how fast or slow the process takes in each state.
Why is this rebound important?
With the COVID-19 pandemic and a shutdown of the economy, we saw a steep two-month decline in the number of houses that went into contract. In May, however, that number increased dramatically (See graph here):
This jump means buyers are back in the market and purchasing homes right now. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist at NAR mentioned:
“This has been a spectacular recovery for contract signings and goes to show the resiliency of American consumers and their evergreen desire for homeownership…This bounce back also speaks to how the housing sector could lead the way for a broader economic recovery.”
But in order to continue with this trend, we need more houses for sale on the market. Yun continues to say:
“More listings are continuously appearing as the economy reopens, helping with inventory choices…Still, more home construction is needed to counter the persistent underproduction of homes over the past decade.”
As we move through the year, we’ll see an increase in the number of houses being built. This will help combat a small portion of the inventory deficit. The lack of overall inventory, however, is still a challenge, and it is creating an opportunity for homeowners who are ready to sell. As the graph below shows, during the last 12 months, the supply of homes for sale has been decreasing year-over-year and is not keeping up with the demand from homebuyers.
If you decided not to sell this spring due to the health crisis, maybe it’s time to jump back into the market while buyers are actively looking for homes. Let’s connect today to determine your best move forward.