US housing market headed for ‘deep freeze’ as mortgage rates soar

The US housing market is on the cusp of a “deep freeze” as rising mortgage rates and steep home prices conspire to limit buying and selling activity, a prominent economist warned this week.

Mark Zandi, the chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, pointed to a slowdown in demand among prospective home buyers. Sales of previously owned homes slumped by 14.2% in June compared to the same month one year earlier, even as the median sale price jumped to 13.4% to $416,000 over the same period, according to the National Association of Realtors.

“It makes sense, with the higher mortgages conflating with higher house prices, first-time homebuyers just can’t afford to buy in. They’re locked out,” Zandi told CNBC. “And trade-up buyers, they’re kind of locked in because if they sell and buy, they’ve got to get another mortgage at a higher rate and their monthly payments are going to rise.”

Zandi added that real estate investors are “going to the sidelines” until market conditions become more favorable.

Mark Zandi said home prices could start to fall later this year.
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“Demand is really weakening very rapidly and you’re right, I think housing is going into a deep freeze,” Zandi said.

All forms of borrowing are becoming more expensive as the Federal Reserve hikes interest rates to combat inflation. The volume of mortgage loan applications recently hit a 22-year low as the higher rates and steep home prices shut real estate shoppers out of the market.

Earlier this week, the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index showed home builder confidence fell 12 points to 55 in July, hitting its lowest level since May 2020 as builders react to the deteriorating conditions.

Zandi noted his view that “house prices have peaked,” with declines likely to follow later this year or early next year as sellers acknowledge the reality that their asking prices have become unaffordable.

House for sale
Mortgage rates are impacting home affordability.
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House for sale
Economists have increasingly warned of an upcoming housing slowdown.
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“I’m not arguing we’re going to crash; I’m just arguing there’s a major comeuppance coming in regard to house prices. I think the market is under a lot of stress,” he added.

Earlier this week,  Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the housing market was on the verge of a “meltdown” due to sagging demand and confidence.

As The Post reported in June, Zandi and other economists warned that a housing correction was inevitable due to rising interest rates – though experts say the slowdown won’t reach the depths that occurred during the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008.

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