Will the number of homes that take a price cut this year drop below 2023 levels? Yes! If the current trends continue into the strong seasonal pricing period, we will see fewer homes that are discounted before selling. I believe this was the most overlooked housing story of the last year because even as mortgage rates rose all the way to 8%, the home price cut percentage data was always about 4% lower year over year.
Traditionally, one third of all homes get a price cut before they sell and when demand gets weaker, this percentage increases, which we saw in 2022 when prices were falling in the second half of the year. However, as home sales stabilized in 2023, so did this data line. While the percentage of price cuts is still much higher than 2021 levels, this explains why prices were stable in the second half of 2023 versus the second half of 2022.
Now that mortgage rates have fallen and as we start the brand new year, we need to focus on this data line more. I believe we should get more sellers in 2024 than in 2023, but that doesn’t necessarily mean home prices will fall.
Price cut percentages
As you can see in the chart below, if we continue the current seasonal trend, we are going to surpass the price-cut percentage lows of 2023 by this spring. This is why following the housing market tracker tied to the 10-year yield, mortgage rates, and purchase application data will be as critical as last year to tell you what’s going on in the housing market. That way you don’t need to wait for stale sales data. If mortgage rates increase or supply grows faster than expected, this data line is critical to telling the truth.
Here are the year-over-year price-cut percentages from the first week of the year:
- 2024 32.8%
- 2023 36.5%
- 2022 22.6%
It’s 2024! Time to get this party started!
Of course, my main wish during the crazy COVID-19 period was to try to get total active listings back to pre-COVID-19 levels, which was a functioning marketplace with more choices. It’s been challenging as only a few parts of the U.S. have returned to pre-COVID-19 levels. However, one key for 2024 is finding the seasonal bottom in housing inventory sooner rather than later. We want to see active inventory bottom out in January and February — not March and April.
Weekly housing inventory data
Here is a look at the first week of the year:
- Weekly inventory change (Dec. 29-Jan. 5): Inventory fell from 513,240 to 499,143
- Same week last year (Dec. 30-Jan. 6): Inventory fell from 490,809 to 471,349
- The inventory bottom for 2022 was 240,194
- The inventory peak for 2023 is 569,898
- For context, active listings for this week in 2015 were 959,028
New listings data
This is the year we should all be rooting for new listings data to grow. Last year, It was great to see that new listing data didn’t take a new dive lower no matter how high mortgage rates got. While working from the lowest levels, 2024 should show year-over-year growth: I’d like to see new listings data get back to 2021 and 2022 levels. Both these years were the lowest new listing levels before rates rose, so it’s not asking for much. I talked about this on CNBC a few months ago.
The year-over-year data is meaningless late in the year or very early: we need to get back to 2021 and 2022 levels during the spring period entering the summer. Hopefully, this will occur in 2024.
Mortgage rates and the 10-year yield
In my 2024 forecast, the 10-year yield range is between 4.25%-3.21%, with a critical line in the sand at 3.37%. If the economic data stays firm, we shouldn’t break below 3.21%, but if the labor data gets weaker, that line in the sand — which I call the Gandalf line, as in “you shall not pass,” will be tested. This 10-year yield range means mortgage rates between 7.25%-5.75%. If the spreads get better, mortgage rates can be lower than this.
Last week was jobs week, and some of the data was good, while some showed softness. Starting from Tuesday, mortgage rates starting didn’t move too much even though the bond market had some wild swings.
However, from the previous week, we went from mortgage rates of 6.61% to a high of 6.76%. Right now, I am watching for 3.80% on the 10-year yield, and if the economic data gets better and the Federal Reserve makes another mistake by getting too hawkish, 4.40% on the upside. However, one big positive now is that the spreads are improving. We have the CPI inflation report coming up this week, so that should be a market mover. Always remember, the Fed presidents can say something hawkish and mess things up daily.
Purchase application data
I will keep this very short and sweet: we never care about the last two weeks of the year with purchase applications because nothing happens during Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Traditionally don’t track the first week of the year either, but for the tracker purposes, starting next week, I will.
The truth is that mortgage demand has collapsed, and it has a tough time growing with rates above 6%. With that said, last year, we had 23 positive and 24 negative prints, and two flat prints for the year. Before Christmas came, we had an excellent six-week positive growth trend as mortgage rates fell almost 1.5% from 8%.
Purchase apps are seasonal; we focus on the second week of January to the first week of May. Traditionally, volumes always fall after May, so we will get a good idea of how the year will look soon. Remember, context is vital we are working from the lowest levels ever, so it doesn’t take much to move the needle higher, but we want to see real growth, not a low-level bounce. A sub-6% mortgage rate with duration should do the trick, but we aren’t there yet. So, for now, we will be very mindful of the weekly data.
The week ahead
We have two inflation reports coming out this week: The all-important CPI report on Thursday and the PPI report on Friday. The growth rate of inflation has cooled down enough to stop the rate hike cycle and now we want to see rate cuts. The one good thing about the CPI report is that the most significant component of CPI, shelter inflation, hasn’t had its big move lower yet. Also, it’s impossible to have core CPI accelerate higher without shelter inflation taking off again since it’s 44.4% of the index.