The cost of owning a home is officially the highest on record, Redfin says. Here’s how bad it is out there

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The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate reached 7.50% this week, the highest all year. It’s because of a “hotter-than-expected inflation report and the Fed’s confirmation that interest rate cuts will be delayed,” Redfin’s data journalist, Dana Anderson, wrote today in a housing market update. 

But it’s not only mortgage rates; home prices are rising too. The median home sale price rose 5% over the last year in the four weeks ending April 14, to $380,250. It’s lower than the all-time high reached in June 2022 in the pandemic housing boom, but only by $3,095, according to Redfin.

“The combination of high mortgage rates and prices have brought homebuyers’ median monthly housing payment to a record $2,775, up 11% year over year,” Anderson wrote. 

Data released today shows that existing home sales dipped 4.3% from a month earlier and 3.7% from a year earlier. “Home sales are stuck because interest rates have not made any major moves,” NAR’s Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement accompanying the release. 

Things didn’t seem like they could get much worse. Already, home prices swelled more than 50% in a matter of four years; the salary Americans need to afford a starter home has nearly doubled since the start of the pandemic to almost $76,000 a year; the typical household makes almost $30,000 less than what’s needed to buy a median-priced home; and renting will be cheaper than buying for years (and don’t be fooled, rents are still high). 

It’s not clear when or if mortgage rates will drop, but they might never fall to the historical lows seen throughout the pandemic. Toward the end of last year, some forecasts predicted mortgage rates would end the year lower than last year, and there was at one point anticipation of three interest rate cuts this year, but that no longer seems likely. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said it himself earlier this week, that interest rates aren’t coming any time soon. “Right now, given the strength of the labor market and progress on inflation so far, it’s appropriate to allow restrictive policy further time to work,” Powell said. 

Sometimes it can seem like a never-ending cycle. When mortgage rates are high, relative to what they were years before, people stop selling their homes. No one wants to lose a 3% mortgage rate, let alone for one that’s 7%; it’s why existing home sales fell to their lowest point in nearly three decades last year. But when people stop selling their homes, there’s less supply, and really not enough to meet demand when coupled with our existing housing crisis (and still, fewer homes are being built). So it becomes about simply supply and demand dynamics; more demand than supply pushes home prices up, worsening affordability. Redfin’s data shows there’s more than three months of supply; in a healthy housing market, four to five months of supply is the norm.

The median home sale price only declined in one of 50 of the most populous metropolitan areas, according to Redfin. That was in San Antonio, and it was still just a 1% decline. Whereas, one metropolitan area saw its median home price increase almost 25%: Anaheim. 

Some expect home prices to continue rising, although it varies by how much. Zillow sees home prices increasing less than 2% this year, but Capital Economics sees them climbing 5% this year. And none of this accounts for insurance woes, the sort of dark horse in the housing market that seems to be becoming more and more of an issue, especially in California and Florida. 

Maybe the pivot spring season, or simply this year’s mini version, is coming to an early end—or maybe, the housing market isn’t really thawing meaningfully.

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