Housing Activity Expected to Pick Up in 2024 as Rates Move Lower

Staff Report From Georgia CEO

Monday, February 26th, 2024

 Existing home sales and new single-family housing starts are expected to grow modestly in 2024 amid lower mortgage rates and slowly strengthening homebuyer sentiment, according to the February 2024 commentary from the Fannie Mae (OTCQB: FNMA) Economic and Strategic Research (ESR) Group. While housing affordability is still seriously constrained following the home price run-up of the past few years, the supply of existing homes available for sale is finally showing signs of loosening. Additionally, more households have recently signaled that they expect mortgage rates to decline, as evidenced by Fannie Mae's January 2024 Home Purchase Sentiment Index®, a newfound optimism that may signal an increased openness to moving. The ESR Group's latest forecast sees mortgage rates falling to 5.9 percent by the end of 2024 and 5.7 percent by the end of 2025, both slight upticks compared to last month's forecast. Additionally, it expects single-family starts to trend upward in 2024 despite the pullback this past month, as permits have increased for twelve consecutive months and demand for new homes remains robust.

The ESR Group upgraded its 2024 macroeconomic growth outlook due to a stronger-than-expected Q4 2023 gross domestic product (GDP) report, as well as incoming data on recent population growth and immigration trends that point to faster payroll and GDP growth over the forecast horizon. Still, the ESR Group continues to expect a slower pace of economic growth in 2024 compared to 2023. An unsustainably low savings rate suggests softer consumer spending going forward, consistent with the pullback in January retail sales, and slowing local and state tax receipts point to slower direct government spending growth. Further, while payroll growth looks to have reaccelerated in December and January, other labor market measures indicate softness, including the household survey and the quits rate. On net, this suggests to the ESR Group that the labor market is likely to cool in the near future.

"Market dynamics continue to reflect significant uncertainty regarding the sustainability of stronger-than-expected recent GDP growth, the continuity of the decline of inflation, and the path of monetary policy change, not to mention the many ways in which historical relationships in housing and the larger economy remain out of balance post-pandemic," said Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae Senior Vice President and Chief Economist. "Right now, our base case scenario foresees economic growth decelerating, rates gradually declining, and new single-family home sales slowly recovering as construction adds supply. However, if economic growth continues to surprise to the upside, then we believe the risk of mortgage rates remaining higher for longer will also increase."

Visit the Economic & Strategic Research site at fanniemae.com to read the full February 2024 Economic Outlook, including the Economic Developments Commentary, Economic Forecast, Housing Forecast, and Multifamily Market Commentary. To receive e-mail updates with other housing market research from Fannie Mae's Economic & Strategic Research Group, please click here.

Opinions, analyses, estimates, forecasts, and other views of Fannie Mae's Economic & Strategic Research (ESR) group included in these materials should not be construed as indicating Fannie Mae's business prospects or expected results, are based on a number of assumptions, and are subject to change without notice. How this information affects Fannie Mae will depend on many factors. Although the ESR Group bases its opinions, analyses, estimates, forecasts, and other views on information it considers reliable, it does not guarantee that the information provided in these materials is accurate, current or suitable for any particular purpose. Changes in the assumptions or the information underlying these views could produce materially different results. The analyses, opinions, estimates, forecasts, and other views published by the ESR group represent the views of that group as of the date indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of Fannie Mae or its management.