A real estate bubble is generally defined by over speculation in the housing market. That bubble leads to unsustainable price levels that are generally not affordable by the average home buyer. When prices surge beyond the affordability level it is an indication that home prices are too high.
Many factors drive affordability. Interest rates, being a primary factor, have a direct implication on affordability. A bubble could be created simply by interest rates increasing which has direct impact on decreased affordability. For example, a $300,000 home financed with an interest rate of 3% may have a total payment [PITI] of $1,725. At 6% the total payment might now be $2,240.
Certainly in the Twin Cities and around the entire Midwest home prices have risen significantly from 2017 to 2022. Coupling that with higher interest rates currently, many could speculate that we are in a bubble. However, in order to properly analyze that we have to look at affordability. If home buyers can still afford to purchase a $300,000 home at 8% rates, then home prices have more room to grow.
The Affordability Index
Per the most recent Minneapolis area Association of Realtors report [http://maar.stats.10kresearch.com/] their affordability index is 102. This is a significant decrease from a year ago (almost 30%). The decrease was driven by a combination of another year of significant home price gains and a doubling of average market interest rates. An index rating of 100 means at current interest rates the average priced home is perfectly affordable for the average income family. By our definition then we are not in a housing bubble quite yet. However, with months of supply still hovering around one month, buyers may be willing to stretch their budget and pay more than what they normally would for a new home. This could be construed as over speculation. We have a different theory.
What we expect to see happen is home sales slowing down now due to higher interest rates and lower affordability. Buyers will be more reluctant to stretch their budgets further in order to own a home. Unfortunately, home ownership will be out of reach now for many would-have-been home owners. We do not think this will cause a decrease in home prices, rather a stabilization in prices and an end to the 10% levels of year-over-year appreciation gain.
This all changes, of course, if interest rates continue to increase in to the 7-8% range or higher. No one knows what interest rates will do for sure. There are simply too many factors that determine market rates and knowing how all of
them will interact with each other in this new environment is impossible.
How is this different from 2005?
Nearly everyone who has purchased a home since 2010 has earned it. Mortgage underwriting guidelines have actually been adhered to over the past 12 years. Up to 2006, the mortgage industry could finance nearly everyone, regardless of income, credit, or an ability to repay the loan. The last bubble was caused by over speculation, coupled with a lack of foundation in the financing instruments that fueled that speculation. Today is different – mortgages are on a solid foundation and at time of origination, the borrowers actually had to demonstrate an ability to repay their loan.
The best advice we can give to our clients is if an opportunity exists to own a home within your budget, then take advantage of the opportunity.