IS THE MARKET COOLING OFF?

Yes, it looks like the real estate market might be in for a little cooling off. Houses in the Pacific Northwest are starting to take a little longer to sell, including new construction homes and condos, we are also continuing to see interest rates rise.


The data

A slew of figures released this week gives ample evidence of at least a cooling.

• Existing-home sales dropped in June for a third straight month. Purchases of new homes are at their slowest pace in eight months.

• Inventory, which plunged for years, has begun to grow again as buyers move to the sidelines, sapping the fuel for surging home values.

• Prices for existing homes climbed 6.4 percent in May, the smallest year-over-year gain since early 2017, and have gained the least over three months since 2012, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

• Shares of PulteGroup fell as much as 4.9 percent Thursday morning after the national homebuilder reported that orders had declined 1 percent from a year earlier, blaming rising mortgage rates.
 

Supply lines

Some of the most expensive markets, where sales are falling under the weight of prices, are now seeing substantial increases in supply, according to Redfin. Supply rose 24 percent in Seattle and 32 percent in Portland, Oregon. Those big jumps are from low numbers, so the housing crunch is still a serious problem.

“Inventory has increased quite a bit,” Godwin, the Seattle agent, said. “We’re seeing less competition.”

Dustin Miller, an agent with Windermere Realty Trust in Portland, said he’s trying to manage sellers’ expectations, something he hasn’t had to do since the end of the last housing boom.

“Buyers want to shop and take some time, as opposed to having to rush and throw offers in,” Miller said. “It’s the market correcting itself. At some point, you hit a peak of momentum, and then things level off.”

This new wariness was noticeable in the latest consumer-sentiment data from the University of Michigan. In its preliminary July survey, 65 percent of Americans said it’s a good time to buy a home, the lowest since 2008, when the economy was still in recession.

“The rate of home sales, new and existing, has probably peaked,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. “But it’s not going to roll over. It will gently decline.”

The homeownership rate in the second quarter was 64.3 percent, up from 63.7 percent a year earlier, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released Thursday.

“While there appears to be a slowdown in the growth rate of home sales and prices, it has not slowed rising home­ownership,” Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sam Khater said in a statement — though he added that the rate is a full percentage point below the 50-year average, reflecting “the long-lasting scars from the Great Recession and the lopsided nature of this recovery.”

 

Housing starts

In the Seattle area, prices were up 13.1 percent from a year ago, still the most in the country and largely unchanged from the increases seen over the course of 2018.

Homeownership still remains out of reach for many Americans, especially for first-time and younger buyers. For existing homes, the median price climbed in June to a record $276,900, while properties typically stayed on the market for 26 days, unchanged from the prior three months, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The cooling, in turn, could curb housing starts, “because builders tend to only build what they think they can confidently sell,” Stansfield said. At the same time, he said, “it will decrease the risk of a bust.”

Cory James