Redfin: Home prices will fall for the first time since 2012. Here’s why they will still be ‘out of reach’ for many buyers


Redfin’s real-estate outlook for 2024 has good news for homebuyers—or does it? With affordability deteriorating beyond levels seen at the peak of the housing bubble, chief economist Daryl Fairweather sees improvement next year—just not at the rate that’s actually needed. 

“Home prices will still be out of reach for many Americans, but any break in the affordability crisis is a welcome development nonetheless,” Fairweather wrote in an outlook released this week. This was just one of seven predictions she had.

The first prediction is that home prices will fall 1% year-over-year in the second and third quarters of next year (in line with housing market seasonality). Given that home prices will end this year at around a 3% increase and the typical homebuyer’s monthly mortgage payment is only $150 below an all-time high, by Redfin’s calculation, Fairweather called it a “favorable shift” for buyers. It’s important to note that Redfin is specifically predicting a change in the median sales price of existing homes, and aside from falling 1% in the two middle quarters, Redfin expects home prices to be flat in the first and last quarter of the year.

This slight decline “will mark the first time prices have declined since 2012, when the housing market was recovering from the Great Recession, with the exception of a brief period in the first half of 2023,” she wrote. 

Redfin forecasts annually, making this its first outlook for next year. Last year, Redfin’s then-deputy chief economist, Taylor Marr, predicted that high mortgage rates were likely to make 2023 “the slowest housing-market year since 2011.” And existing home sales did fall to their lowest pace since 2010 in September of this year. However, Marr predicted that mortgage rates would end the year below 6% and home prices would drop by roughly 4%, neither of which has occurred as of early December. Let’s be clear, though—it’s rare for forecasts to be completely correct; after all, for more than a year now, economists have been calling a recession that still hasn’t happened

The reason we’ll see home prices drop is because listings are set to increase, according to Redfin’s prediction, largely due to the fact that the so-called lock-in effect will ease next year. Fairweather wrote that Redfin has seen a double-digit increase in homeowners looking for help selling their homes—which seems to be a far cry from existing home sales that fell to their lowest level in more than a decade this year. More listings means more sales; Redfin predicts existing home sales will rise throughout next year as “affordability improves.” The real estate company expects 4.3 million existing home sales in 2024, which would be up 5% year-over-year, according to the forecast. And, instead of losing momentum throughout the year, as they did this year, existing home sales will gain momentum, Fairweather predicted.

“We’re starting to see signs of a shift toward a buyer’s market as pandemic-driven inflation takes its last gasps,” she wrote. 

And listings are set to rise as mortgage rates fall. Redfin expects mortgage rates to “steadily decline,” falling to about 6.6% by the end of next year. That’s after hovering around 7% in the first quarter, per its forecast. 

“Mortgage rates are likely to remain well above pandemic-era record lows because financial markets increasingly believe the country will avoid a recession in 2024,” Fairweather said, adding that the Federal Reserve will likely keep interest rates steady before cutting rates two to three times beginning next summer. 

So far, it’s good news for buyers—but of course, prices are already high, and so are mortgage rates. The average 30-year fixed rate came in at 7.07% as of the latest reading, much lower than October’s 8.03%.

Redfin’s final three predictions are less tangible, but significant nonetheless. For one, the brokerage said, “change will come to the real estate industry.” This has to do with the way Americans buy and sell homes, now that jury has found that the National Association of Realtors (and others) conspired to gouge buyers and sellers. The news has been widely reported, so “homebuyers in 2024 will become even more aware of how much an agent costs, and less apologetic about negotiating commissions,” Redfin predicted.

Redfin announced that it was cutting ties with NAR in October, partly because it was uncomfortable with NAR’s stance on commissions. Now, in this forecast, Fairweather doubled down and said these changes would be good for consumers. 

She also predicts that “renting will lose its stigma,” for a couple of reasons: millennials who think they’ll never own a home being forced to rent and some younger people who simply prefer it. Not to mention a recent Bank of America analysis found rent to be cheaper than mortgages in all but two of 97 major metropolitan areas. 

As for her final prediction, Fairweather expects “President Biden and his opponents to make splashy housing policy proposals to try to lure voters who are unhappy with their economic prospects.” That touches on a common theme, the fact that the economy is generally strong, and yet consumers feel as if they’re struggling—a lot of which can be attributed to housing costs. 

It seems predictions for next year generally expect an improvement in affordability, but only slightly. Consider Zillow, which expects affordability to ease “just a bit,” or, which expects a “small step” in the direction of improved affordability next year. 

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