What Happens to Real Estate During a Recession? (The Facts)


A recession is a significant decline in economic activity lasting longer than a few months. It is characterized by a drop in key indicators like GDP, employment, and consumer spending.

The Impact of a Recession on Real Estate

The truth is, while real estate can get hurt during a downturn, there is much less correlation between real estate and the broader economy than most people believe. But even so, there are two main concerns to keep an eye on.

Decreased property values

During a recession, property values often decline due to decreased consumer confidence and purchasing power. This dip can be attributed to job losses, tighter lending standards, and economic uncertainty, making people hesitant to invest or upgrade. 

While this presents challenges for sellers hoping for high returns, it can offer opportunities for buyers seeking more affordable options.

Reduced demand for real estate

A recession typically leads to a slowdown in the housing market, as fewer people are willing or able to buy properties. Factors like job insecurity, reduced incomes, and stricter loan requirements can deter potential buyers. Conversely, this reduced demand can lead to an oversupply, pushing prices even lower and creating a buyer’s market.

Real Estate Investing During a Recession

During more than half of the previous 34 recessions, dating back over 150 years, real estate has either not been affected or hasn’t been affected nearly as severely as other asset classes like stocks.

Risks and rewards

In a recession, real estate investing can present both unique challenges and lucrative opportunities. While property values may decline and rental income might diminish, there are chances to acquire properties at lower prices. 

Astute investors can capitalize on these downturns, but it’s crucial to evaluate each deal’s potential risks and rewards.


Diversifying your investment portfolio, including incorporating real estate, can serve as a protective strategy during economic downturns. Real estate often reacts differently to economic events compared to stocks or bonds. By having a mix of assets, investors can better weather market fluctuations and capitalize on different growth opportunities.

Monitoring and adapting

The real estate market during a recession demands constant monitoring and the flexibility to adapt to evolving circumstances. As market conditions shift, investors must be prepared to adjust their strategies, whether that means holding on to properties longer than anticipated or seeking alternative financing options. Staying informed and being agile can make all the difference in yielding positive returns.

Now, let’s look at a few reasons why real estate isn’t impacted as much as other asset classes during a recession:

  • Real estate isn’t just any old investment. There is intrinsic value in real estate assets, so they tend to be more resilient to economic forces.
  • Recessions tend to occur after periods of increased inflation. Where do people like to put their money during inflationary periods? Real estate. Both the underlying asset and the debt associated with real estate are great hedges against inflation.
  • When the stock market drops and other asset classes get hit, many investors look to real estate as a wealth-preservation option. Real estate values rarely go to zero or anywhere near zero, unlike investments in some other asset classes.

Tips for Prospective Buyers and Investors

If you’re interested in buying real estate during a recession, here are some tips that can reduce your risk and improve the likelihood of scoring a good deal.

Time the market

While it’s challenging to pinpoint the exact bottom of the market, understanding market trends and indicators can give you a better sense of optimal buying moments. Keeping a close eye on the broader economic landscape can help you make informed decisions.

Know your financing options

Securing favorable financing can make a significant difference in the profitability of your investment. Research various lenders, mortgage rates, and loan types to find the best fit for your financial situation.

Identify undervalued properties

Finding properties priced below their intrinsic value can yield higher returns in the long run. Conduct thorough research, engage with local real estate agents, and utilize property assessment tools to uncover hidden gems.

Strategies for Homeowners During a Recession

As a homeowner, there are steps you can take to protect your investment during a recession. We’re not talking about investment real estate here—instead, we’re talking about the home that you live in. 

Stay informed

Knowledge is power, especially during economic downturns. Regularly monitor the housing market and economic indicators in your area to understand how they might affect your home’s value.

Know your refinance options

A recession can lead to lower interest rates, providing an opportunity to refinance your mortgage. By securing a lower rate, you can reduce monthly payments and save money over the loan’s life span.

Rent your property

If you have extra space (such as a basement apartment) or an accessory dwelling, consider renting it out. This can provide an additional income stream, helping offset mortgage costs and maintain your property’s value.

Make home improvements, conduct regular maintenance

Regular home maintenance can preserve your home’s value and even increase it. During a recession, focusing on cost-effective home improvements can enhance curb appeal and protect your investment from depreciation.

Government Policies and Real Estate

Government policies can have a massive impact on the real estate market. New policies often come to light during or after a recession, with hopes of providing an economic boost or maintaining stability. 

From stimulus packages aimed at reviving a stagnant housing sector to tax incentives that encourage homeownership, these interventions can impact buying, selling, and investing behaviors. 

For example, tax breaks for first-time homebuyers can lead to surges in demand, ultimately driving up property values in targeted areas.

Further influencing the market’s dynamics is the Federal Reserve’s role in setting interest rates, which directly affects mortgage rates. A reduction in interest rates can make borrowing cheaper, encouraging more people to buy homes or refinance existing mortgages. On the flip side, an increase can have the opposite effect, cooling the market. 

Final Thoughts

Navigating the real estate market during a recession requires knowledge, adaptability, and awareness of broader economic influences. While real estate often displays resilience in the face of economic downturns, its relationship with governmental policies and the broader economy underscores the importance of staying informed and proactive. 

Whether you’re an investor, buyer, or homeowner, understanding these dynamics ensures you’re equipped to make decisions that protect and grow your investments in uncertain economic times.

4 Economic Triggers That Could Send Us Into a Recession

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Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.

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