First-time home buyers are expected to re-emerge in the new year after mostly staying out of the market in the aftermath of the housing crisis. That's one of realtor.com®'s five top housing predictions for 2015.
"The residual financial effects of recession-driven job losses and subsequent unemployment have impeded Millennials' entry into the home-owning market," says Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for realtor.com®. "In 2015, increases in employment opportunities will empower younger buyers to return to the market and fuel the continued housing recovery. If access to credit improves, we could see substantially larger numbers of young buyers in the market. However, given a high dependency on financial qualifications, this activity will be skewed to geographic areas with higher affordability, such as the Midwest and South."
Realtor.com®'s top five housing predictions for 2015 are:
- Millennials to drive household formation. Households headed by Millennials are expected to see significant growth in 2015, particularly as the economy continues to make gains. Millennials are expected to drive two-thirds of household formations over the next five years, according to realtor.com®'s report. The forecasted addition of 2.5 million jobs next year, as well as an increase in household formation, are the two factors that realtor.com® points to in driving more first-time home buyers to the housing market.
- Existing-home sales on the rise. Existing-home sales are projected to rise 8 percent year-over-year in 2015, as more buyers enter the market. Distressed properties will make up a smaller share of that growth, unlike in 2012, when a similar increase in existing-home sales was mostly driven by distressed properties.
- Home prices will rise. Home prices are expected to continue to edge up in 2015, with realtor.com® forecasters predicting a 4.5 percent gain. "While first-time home buyers have many economic factors working in their favor, increasing home prices will make it more difficult to get into high-priced markets such as San Francisco and San Jose, Calif.," realtor.com® notes in its report. "As a result, first-time home buyer activity is expected to concentrate in markets with strong employment and affordability, such as Des Moines, Iowa; Atlanta; and Houston."
- Mortgage rates to inch up to 5 percent. In the middle of 2015, mortgage rates are expected to increase as the Federal Reserve increases its target rate by at least 50 basis points before the end of the year. That will likely bring the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage to an average of 5 percent by the end of 2015. (It's currently averaging 3.89 percent, according to Freddie Mac.) The 1-year adjustable-rate mortgage, on the other hand, is expected to rise more minimally. "Lower ARM interest rates will influence an uptick in buyer interest for adjustable and hybrid mortgages," realtor.com® notes. "While still at historic lows, rate increases will affect housing affordability for first-timers trying to break into the housing market and will be another factor pushing them to less-expensive locales."
- Housing affordability will decline. Affordability for homes, based on home-price appreciation and rising mortgage interest rates, will likely fall by 5 to 10 percent in 2015. However, the decline in affordability likely will be offset by an increase in salaries next year for many households. "When considering historical norms, housing affordability will continue to remain strong next year," realtor.com® notes.