Inflation has been a word on many people’s tongues since the end of 2021.
It’s a worry to many different people for various reasons — from individuals who are worried they won’t be able to afford their groceries after price hikes to business owners concerned about covering their overhead costs.
Since growing prices are the literal definition of inflation, it seems reasonable to assume properties will follow this general pattern — especially after housing market prices rose by almost 20% in 2021.
However, things are rarely so clear-cut, and a crash could be brewing instead. Let’s take a closer look at the trends that have been brewing over recent times.
1) Interest Rates Hikes
The association between interest rates and inflation is well known. When inflation runs wild, the Fed raises interest rates to slow the economy down.
How? Higher interest rates make it more profitable to save and more expensive to borrow, encouraging people to refrain from spending too much — reducing demand and therefore getting inflation under control.
At least, that’s the theory.
Mortgage rates increase along with other rates, making it more expensive and less desirable to take out a mortgage. So, after an initial rush of people trying to secure fixed-rate mortgages when rumors of interest rate increase first loom, it’s likely that demand for buying properties will decline.
The Fed has already announced its intentions to increase interest rates, so it’s only a matter of time before we start to see this process play out.
In fact, it’s already happening and we can see that in the daily volatility of stock prices, particularly in the opening range of the trading session.
While mortgage rates were previously hovering just below 3%, they’re now starting to inch a few percentage points higher; some experts think this trend will continue throughout 2022.
Could this contribute to or result in a housing market crash?
2) Slowdown in Demand
The same phenomenon played out in many different real estate markets across the world in 2021: High numbers of homebuyers scrambling over the same limited housing stock.
Buyers competing for limited housing is known as a seller’s market because sellers have the upper hand and can dictate prices to some extent. Yet this could all be about to change.
As we see not just mortgages become less desirable and many people struggling to cover basic household expenses like gas and food, reduced demand for mortgages seems a reasonable prediction.
Slower mortgage demand makes sense when you consider that the bulk of those in a financial position to purchase homes probably did so at the heat of the pandemic when conditions were favorable for buyers.
However, just because demand is slowing, it doesn’t necessarily mean we will immediately move to one where buyers can command the best prices. It’s also not straightforward to make any kinds of predictions at all.
It would have been easy to claim that unemployment and uncertainty during Covid would have made buying a house out of reach for the average person. Yet, most major economies saw demand for housing surge instead.
3) More Home Construction
In addition to demand being likely to wane, we could also see an increase in supply. During the pandemic, there were supply issues across the globe due to social distancing restrictions and higher prices for raw materials.
All of this made home construction slower — but now, the pace seems to be picking up.
Many experts predict that housing inventory will enter the market, allowing supply to meet demand. It’s unclear whether this is quite the supply shock needed to cause a housing market crash, but it could certainly stabilize or reduce prices.
4) A Turbulent Rental Market
At this point, you might be wondering what’s in store for the rental market. So far, it’s kept up with price increases elsewhere in the economy faster than house prices as a whole, and rent in the US has reached an all-time high.
Although many Millennials are moving toward homeownership, a large portion remains in the rental market due to the burden of student loans. Along with economic factors, this has resulted in excessive demand.
Plus, the rental market is likely to be more impacted by inflation since interest rate increases wouldn’t impact it directly. In fact, the Biden administration is struggling to combat the problem.
Could a crisis on this level tip us into a crash?
5) Mixed Responses from Investors
So far, we’ve focused on the impact of inflation and current conditions on those who want to buy properties to live in themselves. But it’s important not to forget that real estate investors also play a massive role in the market.
When it comes to investment, most people make decisions based on expectations. There are currently two narratives — one focuses on a housing crash coming soon due to interest rate rises, and another on prices increasing in line with inflation.
Consequently, it’s tough to know which conclusion individual investors will reach, and there’s likely to be some diversity of opinion.
Some may consider real estate a hedge against inflation, but others may get spooked and pull out, completely dampening demand further.
Final Word: Are Housing Market Prices About to Crash?
It might be sensationalist to say that we can expect a housing market crash in 2022 with any certainty, but there’s plenty of evidence pointing toward house prices decreasing.
Even a stabilization would still be a drastic change from what we’ve seen over the last few years.
Whether you’re a real estate investor or a prospective first-time buyer, this could come as good or bad news. However, whatever situation you find yourself in, now is the perfect time to plan accordingly.
Disclosure: The author is not a licensed or registered investment adviser or broker/dealer. They are not providing you with individual investment advice. Please consult with a licensed investment professional before you invest your money.
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Tim Thomas has a real estate portfolio.
This was produced and syndicated by Tim Thomas / Timothy Thomas Limited.
Featured image credit: Unsplash.