2019 is just about in the books, and the rearview mirror reveals the U.S. residential real estate market is on its way to its coolest year since 2012, with the S&P/Case-Shiller seasonally-adjusted national home price index rising by 3.13% through the third quarter of the year.
But that was this year, and now, with a new year — and a new decade — beckoning, it’s time to break out the crystal ball and see what’s going to happen with home sales, mortgages, and the residential real estate market overall in 2020.
Here are 10 predictions on what homebuyers, home sellers, and other interested parties can expect in real estate next year, according to several real estate industry experts contacted by Finance 101.
The rise of hipsturbia: Each generation makes its mark, and younger homebuyers are no different, says Dana Bull, a realtor with Sagan Harborside Sotheby’s International Realty in Marblehead, Massachusetts.
“Baby Boomers were drivers behind the rise of suburbia,” Bull says. “Now, Millennials and Gen Z’ers are now adding their own twist and spurring the development of walkable communities with shopping, dining, and amenities. The term ‘hipsturbia,’ coined by a PWC and the Urban Land Institute in a recent report, is a trend that’s taking on the outskirts of cities.”
Streamlined home buying and selling: The antiquated process of writing checks to put a deposit on a home and physically meeting to sign paperwork is commonplace in real estate today. But that’s all going to change in the years to come, says Bull. “Tech giants like Zillow are trying to make digital home buying mainstream,” she says. “While I don’t believe this will become the norm, I do believe it will become a viable option for certain situations.”
Younger homebuyers also getting pragmatic. As Millennials continue to enter housing in increasing numbers and Boomers downsize, diverging priorities will create some unpredictable issues.
“Young families are entering in larger numbers (and later than in past generations) with an eye on creating more balanced lives,” says Bill Joyce, a realtor with Charter Home in Sacramento, California. “They don’t want to make all the mistakes their parents did. Many have grown up seeing foreclosure, divorce, and unhappy lives in failed attempts to have it all.”
Consequently, housing budget choices will begin to become a by-product of deliberate life choices for younger buyers.
“Rather than buying the best house the bank says they can afford, they will begin to choose the house that gives them the best life,” Joyce says. “This is likely to be smaller, closer, easier, and less demanding. Leaving more resources — especially time, money, and energy — for everything else in life.”
Home values in retreat. A market price correction may seem like a reach, but it’s more likely than real estate buyers and sellers might think next year.
“After seven roaring years where most of the country saw year-over-year price increases, I see the market having a sizable correction in 2020,” says Jason Harriman, a realtor at Harriman Group in San Antonio, Texas. “This isn’t doom-and-gloom like in 2008, but prices will stay flat throughout most of the country with some of the hotter markets pulling back to negative numbers. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, and Dallas-Fort Worth are all markets I would watch to see prices pull back below their 2019 numbers.”
Homes will spend more days on the market. Buyers will actually get a chance to see a house before it is sold, says Harriman.
“In many markets, the average days it takes to sell is less than 60 days and the supply is less than six months, which homes are selling fast,” he says. “But looking forward, even in the markets (like San Antonio) where the prices are likely to stay flat (rather than decrease), it will take longer to sell. This could cause sellers and some agents to panic and slash prices, but a new normal of 90 days on the market will be fine, once sellers get used to it.”
Renting will remain popular. High student and vehicle debt, relatively tight lending standards, and growing income inequality are holding back homeownership rates.
“But that’s also paving the way for institutional firms and mom-and-pop investors that rent single-family homes to continue to expand,” says Ralph DeFranco, the global chief economist at Arch Capital Services in Walnut Creek, California.
Companies known as iBuyers will expand rapidly. So-called iBuyer firms buy homes quickly for a discount from the estimated market value, which allows flexible move-out dates and a way of avoiding the hassle of frequent home showings, DeFranco says.
“Selling agents like iBuyer because it’s quick,” he notes. “Over time, as more people become comfortable with the idea, this option could increase annual home sales and purchase mortgage originations by making it far easier to change homes.”
If there is a recession, it will be mild for housing. National home prices only fell in one of the past five recessions, since the FHFA HPI data started in 1975. “Thankfully, this business cycle differs from typical cycles in that it didn’t have excessive construction, either in single- or multifamily housing,” says DeFranco. “Extremely high mortgage loan quality should also help prevent the self-reinforcing nuclear meltdown we suffered last time.”
Many people are ready to buy or refinance now, but will need “motivation.” There is no shortage of prospective homebuyers, as well as current homeowners interested in refinancing heading into the new year — if lenders can get them to act.
“Potential buyers are sitting on the fence and open to making a move in 2020 — they just want to feel like they’re getting a good deal as a nudge to jump into action,” says Bill Banfield, executive vice president of Capital Markets at Quicken Loans. “We offered 0.50% discount points to people who applied for a mortgage and locked their rate with us on Cyber Monday, and that led to our single largest day in company history.”
Lenders will need to do more of the same to get fence-sitters into new mortgage loans.
“Today’s consumers are savvy and cost-conscious, even in a continued low-rate environment, and lenders will be able to use pricing incentives to create surges in purchase and refinance activity,” Banfield notes.
Residential real estate as we know it will not exist in the next 10 years. This is more of a long-term trend, but it will pick up steam in 2020.
“The internet has enabled consumers to find out what their homes are worth, what homes are selling for in the area they want to live in, and they can now get a loan from their cell phones,” says Adam P. Von Romer, owner of Axis Realty Advisors, Inc., in Sunrise, Florida. “Residential real estate has become ‘commoditized’ and as such will go the way of the ‘stockbroker,’ ‘auto dealer,’ and the ‘loan industry.’”
“In 10 years, the big players will be Amazon, Google, and Walmart,” Von Romer predicts.