Housing market predictions: The forecast for the next 5 years

Dina Cheney
Tue, September 5, 2023 at 1:54 PM EDT

It’s been a wild real estate ride over the last few years. After a red-hot market characterized by super-low interest rates and frenzied bidding wars, mortgage rates increased to their highest level in more than 20 years — the average rate for a 30-year mortgage more than doubled between August 2021, when it was just 3 percent, and August 2023, when it reached beyond 7 percent. This led to a slowdown of buying activity. Even so, with inventory still scarce, home prices remain unaffordable in many parts of the U.S.

There are plenty of predictions about where the housing market is going as we move toward 2024. But what about further out? After all, buying a home often requires long-term planning. We asked several industry experts to peer into their crystal balls and give us their real estate forecast for the next five years. Here’s looking at you, 2028.

The current housing market

  • Home sale prices: The country’s median existing-home sale price in July 2023 was $406,700, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) — their highest July price on record. For new-construction homes, National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) data shows that July’s median sale price was slightly higher at $436,700.

  • Inventory: Though higher than it was a year ago, the supply of homes for sale remains quite low, per NAR data. The inventory of unsold existing homes was at a 3.3-month supply in July; a balanced market would require a 5- to 6-month supply.

  • Days on market: With high mortgage rates putting a purchase out of reach for many, homes are taking longer to sell. In July, the median length of times homes spent on the market was 20 days, per NAR. That’s a big jump from 14 days in July of last year.

  • Homes sold: Fewer existing homes are selling nationwide too, as many homeowners choose to stay put with locked-in mortgage rates much lower than current rates. The number of sales in July was down more than 16 percent year-over-year, per NAR. Meanwhile, sales of new single-family homes rose 4.4 percent in July versus June, per NAHB data.

  • Mortgage rates: According to Bankrate’s national survey of large lenders, the average 30-year mortgage rate as of late August was 7.32 percent, a high not seen since 2001.

Forecast for mortgage rates and types

Mortgage interest rates could continue to increase, says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, adding that 7 percent could be the general level for the rest of this year and most of 2024. Within two years, he says, the rate should return to 5.5 or 6 percent. Danushka Nanayakkara-Skillington, assistant VP of forecasting and analysis for NAHB, agrees, predicting rates will drop to about 6 percent by the middle of 2024.

Because rates are high, Yun foresees a greater interest in adjustable-rate mortgages through next year. However, after that, he predicts 90 percent of Americans will return to the traditional 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate’s chief financial analyst, thinks the 30-year fixed will remain the dominant mortgage product. “It provides the certainty borrowers want, lenders can sell them to investors, and there is a vibrant secondary market of global investors eager to buy them,” he says.

Predictions for home prices

Yun foresees no major changes in purchase price tags on a nationwide level next year, with fluctuations of only about 5 percent one way or the other. The only exception is California, he says, where the market could see 10 percent declines: “Because it’s so expensive, California is always the most vulnerable to changes in interest rates.” This scenario is already playing out in the priciest areas in the state: For example, San Francisco median home prices are down 9.71 percent since last year, according to Redfin data. Overall, in five years, Yun expects prices to have appreciated a total of 15–25 percent.

McBride predicts home prices will average low- to mid-single-digit annual appreciation over the next five years. This rate of appreciation, he says, is consistent with the long-term average of home prices increasing by a rate that hovers a percentage point above the inflation rate.

Will the housing market crash?

While it may show bubble-like characteristics, Yun does not expect the residential real estate market to pop. He does predict that sales will be at a low point next year, with only 5.3 million units sold, but he foresees a gradual increase afterward, up to an annual 6 million units by 2027. Despite today’s higher mortgage rates, home prices are still strong, he adds. Even if they decline 5 percent (or 10 percent in California) next year, that’s not anywhere close to crashing, which he says is characterized by a one-third drop.

— Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist, National Association of Realtors

“A crash happens with oversupply,” Yun says. “A 30 percent decrease will not happen because there isn’t enough inventory.” He believes the housing supply will balance out within five years.

Many other experts agree that there is no danger of an imminent housing market crash. Not only is inventory is too scarce, as Yun notes, but lending standards today are much stricter than they were back in the days of the Great Recession. Lenders are largely not issuing loans that borrowers can’t really afford anymore, which helps keep foreclosure rates low.

Will we shift into a buyer’s market?

Yun expects the overall seller’s market to continue as long as housing inventory remains low. By five years out, though, he foresees more of a balanced market, where neither the buyer or seller holds a significant advantage. Instead, the negotiating power between parties will be more equal and depend on the individual case.

Caroline Feeney, director of content and executive editor at HomeLight, says the shift away from a seller’s market has already begun. According to a recent survey the company conducted, 51 percent of HomeLight agents described their current local market as a seller’s market. She also expects a balanced market within a few years, though, and says that 55 percent of agents believe the markets that heated up the fastest during the pandemic — including Austin, Phoenix and Boise — are likely to be the first to cool down. This scenario may already be playing out, as well: A recent Knock study reported that Austin and Boise would both favor buyers by early 2024, and that Phoenix would “strongly favor” buyers.

Where will new homes be built, and what kind?

With hybrid work schedules becoming the norm and commuting no longer as relevant, Yun predicts the suburban market will remain strong. He expects growth in areas with rising populations, including the Carolinas, Florida, Texas and Tennessee. Backing up his prediction, Nanayakkara-Skillington of NAHB says 50 percent of new single-family construction is in the South — and Southern markets scored big in Bankrate’s recent Housing Heat Index as well.

The number of single-family homes under construction decreased at the end of 2022. In contrast, the number of multi-family homes under construction has increased over the last few years, says Feeney, who credits this growth in part to their lower price tags and the pressure on municipalities to relieve shortages and provide more affordable housing. Still, with high mortgage rates and inflationary building material prices, Nanayakkara-Skillington expects the multi-family market’s growth to stabilize within a few years, with the number of new housing starts decreasing 8 percent in 2023, and another 5 percent in 2024.

Tips for preparing to buy a home

Buying a house is a major commitment, and starting to save up five years in advance is perfectly reasonable. Here are some strategies to get your finances in shape and save for a down payment so you can be a homeowner by 2028.

1. Think about earning power

Switching jobs is usually the fastest path to a significant salary bump, so be willing to look for other opportunities to increase your earning power. According to a 2022 study from the Pew Research Center, 60 percent of workers who switched jobs earned more money in their new roles, even accounting for inflation. If a new job is not an option, think about the best ways to ask your employer for a raise.

2. Decrease your debt

Saving up to purchase a home isn’t just about growing your bank account. It’s equally important to focus on paying down the amount of money you owe on credit cards, student loans and car payments. By lowering your debt-to-income ratio, you’ll be in a better position to qualify for a mortgage down the line.

3. Improve your credit score

The higher your score, the lower mortgage rate you’re likely to qualify for when you’re ready to buy. Most mortgage types require a minimum score of 620 to qualify, but higher is better. So pay your bills on time and do what you can to raise your credit score before you start house-hunting — it could save you a lot of money in the long run.

4. Focus on your local area

Real estate is hyper-localized, varying greatly not just by region or state but even within the same city. Broad national trends are important to bear in mind, but as you budget and save to buy a house, focus on conditions in the specific neighborhood where you’re looking. This is where a knowledgeable local real estate agent can really shine: Agents are experts in their markets, so find one you like and let their expertise work for you.

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  3. Homebuilders are liking today’s housing market
  4. Existing home sales sank to slowest pace in 30 years in 2023

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