Lower housing costs, better employment craft sustainable market outlook
A cocktail of simmering home price appreciation, declining mortgage rates and stronger employment shot the country's housing market outlook to a three-year peak, according to Nationwide.
The company's second quarter Health of Housing Markets Report shows these trends continuing for at least the next 12 months while the Leading Index of Healthy Housing Markets — a forward-looking measure of sustainability with a neutral rating of 100 — reached 106.3 in the opening quarter of 2019, its highest point since the first quarter of 2016.
"Economic figures from early in the year were probably negatively affected by the government shutdown as well as the impacts of higher interest rates over the second half of last year," David Berson, Nationwide senior vice president and chief economist, said in a press release. "Despite that, we believe that the housing market is poised for another solid year as slower house price growth and lower mortgage rates help affordability, while job gains and faster income growth sustain demand."
Broken down by metropolitan statistical area, 221 of 400 had positive outlook scores, 152 were neutral and 27 were negative. Sumter, S.C. led all positive housing markets in sustainable affordability, followed by Sebastian-Vero, Fla. and Charleston, W.V. The negative scores mostly came from the western side of the country. Kennewick-Richland, Wash. had the lowest rank, then came Pueblo, Colo. and Yakima, Wash.
Average mortgage rates continued descending through the year. Though median home prices still prove too expensive for the majority of average-waged consumers, affordability improved greatly from a year ago. With the market expected to keep moving that direction, homebuyer demand could increase as the year goes on.