Buyer Activity Is Up
Even with higher mortgage rates, buyer traffic is actually picking up speed. Data from the latest ShowingTime Showing Index, which is a measure of buyers actively touring homes, helps paint the picture of how much buyer demand has increased in recent months (see graph below):
As the graph shows, the first two months of 2023 saw a noticeable increase in buyer traffic. That’s likely because the limited number of homes for sale kept shoppers looking for homes even during colder months. To help tell the story of why the latest report is significant, let’s compare foot traffic this February with each February for the last six years (see graph below).
It shows this was one of the best Februarys for buyer activity we’ve seen in recent memory.
In the last six years, we saw the most February buyer traffic in 2021 and 2022 (shown in green above), but those years were highly unusual for the housing market. So, if we compare February 2023 with the more normal, pre-pandemic years, data shows this year still marks a clear rise in buyer activity.
The uptick in buyer traffic is even more noteworthy considering the increase in mortgage rates this February. The Freddie Mac 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose from 6.09% during the week of February 2nd to 6.50% in the week of February 23rd. But even with higher rates, more buyers were looking for a home.
While a recession may be on the horizon, it won’t be one for the housing market record books like the crash in 2008, and what we have to remember is that a recession doesn’t always lead to a housing crisis. Let’s look at the historical data of what happened in real estate during previous recessions.
A Recession Doesn’t Mean Falling Home Prices
To show that home prices don’t fall every time there’s a recession, it helps to turn to historical data. As the graph below illustrates, looking at recessions going all the way back to 1980, home prices appreciated in four of the last six of them. So historically, when the economy slows down, it doesn’t mean home values will always fall.
Bankrate explains mortgage rates typically fall during an economic slowdown:
“During a traditional recession, the Fed will usually lower interest rates. This creates an incentive for people to spend money and stimulate the economy. It also typically leads to more affordable mortgage rates, which leads to more opportunity for homebuyers.”
This year, mortgage rates have been quite volatile as they’ve responded to high inflation. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate has hovered between roughly 6-7%, and that’s impacted affordability for many potential homebuyers. If there is a recession, as history has demonstrated mortgage rates are likely to continue to improving.