The National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo’s Housing Market Index fell by two points to 67 in June, reaching its lowest level since June 2020 in its sixth consecutive month of declines. A value over 50 indicates that more builders see conditions as good rather than bad.
The drop in optimism reflects high inflation and lackluster economic activity. Material costs for residential construction are 19% greater year-over-year, while mortgage rates are soaring to their highest levels since 2008 — excluding many potential home buyers from the market. As a result, total housing starts declined over 14% in May, with single-family home starts falling over 9%, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Heritage Foundation research fellow Joel Griffith told The Daily Wire that although “backlogs in delivery, labor shortages, and surging input costs” are headaches for home builders, plummeting demand due to “broader macroeconomic problems” means that “builders are having difficulty unloading completed homes.”
Government-backed mortgage company Freddie Mac announced on Thursday that the benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has surged to 5.78% — gaining 0.55% in a single week and marking the largest such increase since 1987. Through most of the past two years, rates have been below 3%, yet began their climb to nearly 6% in early 2022.
“A mortgage payment on a typical home with 20% down payment jumped from $1,500 to $2,355 — a stunning 57% rise in monthly payments,” Griffith remarked. “During this time, many families experience a loss of close to $2,600 annually in inflation-adjusted income. With the equities indexes officially in a bear market — a more than 20% decline across the board — families are finding that down payment resources are dwindling as well.”
Indeed, following news that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 8.6% between May 2021 and May 2022, stock exchanges officially entered bear market territory. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell below 30,000 on Thursday for the first time since January 2021 amid an aggressive interest rate hike from the Federal Reserve meant to combat inflation.
Optimism among home builders remains highest in the South, which scored a three-month moving average of 78 on the Housing Market Index. The West — which is home to some of the most expensive real estate in the nation — saw the most severe decline of any region, falling nine points to a value of 74.
Purchase activity for luxury homes, defined as the top 5% of the market, is quickly declining. Sales fell 18% from February to April 2022 compared to the same period last year, according to a report from Redfin obtained by The Wall Street Journal.
Between the second quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2022, the median home sales price has increased from $322,600 to $428,700 — a 33% rise in less than two years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Griffith told The Daily Wire that a return to more affordability requires the federal government to “reduce its subsidies of the housing market” through the government-sponsored enterprises like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve must “cease purchasing mortgage-backed securities” — a decision that Fed Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged last year as a factor behind soaring home prices. Griffith also said that governments worldwide must “stop COVID-related interference with supply chains.”