Mid-Atlantic housing market stalled in February as interest rates began to rise
- Both closed and pending home sales were down more than 20% from a year ago
- Despite an increase in active listings, new listings in February were at their lowest point in more than two decades
- Home price growth levels off, but prices continue to rise across the region cutting into affordability
- With less competition, homes are staying on the market longer than last year
ROCKVILLE, Md., March 10, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — After signs the housing market was poised for a more balanced spring home buying season, the Mid-Atlantic region stalled in February as rising mortgage rates and higher prices due to a lack of inventory cut into home shoppers’ buying power. This sets the stage for a bumpy ride into the spring housing market, according to the Bright MLS February Housing Market Report released today.
As is typical leading up to the spring home buying season, pending sales increased month-over-month as did new listings across the region. However, these upticks were smaller than in past years with pending sales at their lowest level since 2015 and new listings hitting a more than 20-year low. Showings – a sign of buyer demand – were down 48.5% year-over-year, which is likely due to a combination of both affordability as well as a lack of available homes for sale.
Although active listings rose at an annual pace of 37.1%, new listings were down more than 27%. Active listings are just 40% of the level in February 2019, meaning that for every 10 houses available three years ago, today’s buyer has four houses to choose from. The lack of available options kept home prices rising – growing 2.9% year-over-year to $359,900. Homes were on the market more than two weeks longer than they were a year ago at this time, with the median days on market increasing to 21. New pending sales were down 22%.
“Higher mortgage rates and economic uncertainty have subdued the ramp up to the spring market across much of the Mid-Atlantic,” said Bright MLS Chief Economist Dr. Lisa Sturtevant. “Despite pent-up demand, buyers face a number of obstacles. Both rising interest rates and lack of inventory, which are keeping home prices from falling, have sidelined many prospective buyers, especially those looking to purchase their first home. With more evidence rates are going to rise in the coming months and little incentive for homeowners with sub-3% mortgage rates to sell, buyers and sellers should brace themselves for a bumpy ride this spring homebuying season. Buyers will likely have to compromise on what they want in a home, while sellers will need to make their house showing ready, price it appropriately and be ready to negotiate.”
Sturtevant noted for the second month in a row Bright MLS data shows that the suburbs, which typically attract move-up buyers looking for more square footage, backyards and good schools, are faring better than the urban metros. This could be the difference between having the equity from a home sale to put toward a down payment versus a first-time home buyer struggling to save for a down payment and getting approved for a mortgage. In the Washington D.C. region, for example, the median home price in suburban Montgomery County, Md. rose more than 9% in February, while prices fell by 7% in Washington D.C.
Philadelphia metro: A slowdown in the housing market’s recovery
After rebounding in January, the Philadelphia housing market took a step back in February as rising mortgage rates eroded buyers’ purchasing power.
Pending home sales rose in the Philadelphia metro area for the second consecutive month. However, the 5,285 homes that went under contract in the metro during February was the lowest level since 2015. Showings were down nearly 30%.
For the sixth consecutive month, the supply of homes for sale in the Philadelphia region continued to rise, driven by fewer buyers rather than an influx of new listings. Active listings were up 30.2% year-over-year, while new listings were down 22.3% during the same time frame. At the end of February, active listings were half of what they were three years ago, while new listings were at their lowest level in two decades.
Low inventory kept home prices rising despite diminishing buyer interest. The median home price in the region was up 4.4% to $308,000 and 20% higher than three years ago. Days on market increased to 22, nine days longer than a year ago.
According to Sturtevant, the housing market is expected to pick up in March and April. Although there will likely be fewer buyers in the market, sellers will remain in short supply, which will keep home prices rising throughout the spring.
Baltimore metro: Ready. set, nevermind… rising mortgage rates, lack of home stop buyers in their tracks
The combination of rising mortgage rates and a lack of inventory kept Baltimore’s housing market sluggish in February, following a fairly active January. Like the rest of the Mid-Atlantic region, new pending sales rose month-over-month, but the uptick was below the typical run up to the spring home buyer market. On a year-over-year basis, pending sales were down 23.7%.
At 17 days, homes sold faster in Baltimore than the rest of the Mid-Atlantic, an indication that although there are fewer buyers in the market, there is competition for the limited number of homes for sale. This has kept home prices increasing. In February, the median home price in Baltimore was up 2.8% to $329,000.
Inventory in the Baltimore markets continues to be an obstacle for buyers. Despite active listings increasing nearly 40% year over year, they remain nearly 60% below 2019 levels, and there is no indication of sellers returning to the market in earnest anytime soon. New listings hit a more than two decade low in February, down 32.3% year-over-year.
According to Sturtevant, fewer buyers this spring will lead to a lower number of home sales. However, the lack of available homes for sale will make for a competitive home buying season. Home prices will continue to grow, but sellers will need to price their home appropriately if they are to be successful. With repeat buyers having the equity in their current home to use for a down payment, the suburbs will outperform downtown Baltimore, where home prices have fallen for two consecutive months.
Washington metro: A divide between the city and suburbs could be the difference between being a repeat or first-time buyer
Higher mortgage rates slowed buyer activity in the D.C. region in February with new pending sales increasing month-over-month, but down more than 28% from a year ago and at its lowest level since 2014.
New listing activity in the Washington, D.C. region in February fell to its lowest level in more than two decades. Although active inventory is up more than 35% year-over-year, it remains 40% lower than it was in February 2020. This lack of inventory is the primary reason why prices continue to increase across most of the D.C. region. At $535,000, the median home price was up 1.7% year over year and is 20% higher than three years ago.
Within the region, there is considerable variability in home price growth, buyer activity and new listings. In February, Montgomery County, Md., (+11.6%) had the strongest price growth in the region, with prices also up in Prince George’s County, Md (+2.6) and Alexandria City (+2.0%). Home prices fell year-over-year in other areas, including Arlington County, Va. (-2.4%), Frederick County, Md. (-7.9%) and Washington DC (-7.0%).
According to Sturtevant, the region’s relatively high home prices, especially if interest rates remain over 6%, will set the stage for a slower than normal spring housing market. At the same time, motivated buyers vying for a limited number of homes for sale, will keep home prices stable or growing.
The full Mid-Atlantic and Metro area reports are available at BrightMLS.com/MarketInsights
About Bright MLS
Bright MLS was founded in 2016 as a collaboration between 43 visionary associations and two of the nation’s most prominent MLSs to transform what an MLS is and what it does, so real estate pros and the people they serve can thrive today and into our data-driven future through an open, clear and competitive housing market for all. Bright is proud to be the source of truth for comprehensive real estate data in the Mid-Atlantic, with market intelligence currently covering six states (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia) and the District of Columbia. Bright MLS’s innovative tool library—both created and curated—provides services and award-winning support to well over 100K real estate professionals, enabling their delivery on the promise of home to over half a million home buyers and sellers monthly. Learn more at BrightMLS.com.
However, there will be a lot of variation across local markets. Second home and vacation markets could see prices fall further. Suburban markets in the region’s major metro areas are well positioned for a strong recovery.
SOURCE Bright MLS
Originally published at https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/bright-mls-february-housing-report-buckle-up-for-a-bumpy-spring-housing-market-301768998.html
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