The Housing Outlook: 2024

Just because we still think the economy is headed for a recession, doesn’t mean we think the housing market is going to get killed.

The housing market was a mixed bag in 2023: housing starts and existing home sales were weak, while new home sales and home prices rose, in spite of the highest mortgage rates in twenty years. This year we expect modest gains almost all around: modest gains in housing starts, modest gains in sales, and modest gains in prices.

A recession, by itself, would have a negative effect on housing. But there are so many other factors affecting housing that we think the sector would weather the economic storm.

In terms of construction, builders started fewer homes in 2023 than in 2022, which was already down from the COVID peak in 2021. But builders have been consistently building too few homes since the bursting of the housing bubble about fifteen years ago. As a result, we expect a turnaround in 2024. However, the gains should be concentrated in single-family homes; the number of multi-family homes (think apartments and condos) under construction is at an all-time high already.

In terms of sales, it would be hard for the existing home market to get any worse in 2024. Sales have been handcuffed in 2022-23, for two reasons. First, temporary indigestion as mortgage rates rose. Second, homeowners who borrowed money at rock-bottom mortgage rates in 2020-21 have been very reluctant to sell. Who in their right mind would give up a mortgage with a fixed rate of something like 2.75% locked in for fifteen or even thirty years?