2019 housing market pegged U.S. economic growth

2019 Housing market outlook pegged to U.S. economy

The housing market in the U.S. is monitored not only by prospective buyers and sellers of property but also by the general investing public to gauge a measure of the current state of the U.S. economy.

In essence, housing market movements have historically provided valuable insights as to the future outlook of the American economy, and the most recent economic crisis occurred on the back of subprime mortgage loans.

As such, identifying and assessing factors driving this industry is essential in forming an opinion on the country’s future outlook.

The interest rate environment looks supportive.

Since the latter part of 2015, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) hiked the Federal Funds Rate many times, which continued to deteriorate the future outlook for home sales in the U.S.

However, as things stand today, the Federal Reserve is committed to a patient stance, which the Fed Chair Jerome Powell confirmed in March.

Fed Funds Rate (2015-2019)

FED funds rate 2015-2019

(Source – Trading Economics/Federal Reserve)

The patient stance of the Fed is undoubtedly helping the housing market in the U.S., and lower mortgage rates will incentivize many individuals to seek financing solutions to buy homes.

Even though interest rates have risen over the last three and half years, rates remain at historically low levels, which paints a positive outlook for the housing market.

Fed Funds Rate (1970-2019)

U.S. FED funds rate 1970-2019

(Source – Trading Economics/Federal Reserve)

The Fed Chair confirmed that the Committee will remain patient regarding future rate hikes and carefully consider the economic growth potential before raising rates further.

A group of analysts are now pricing in the possibility of a rate cut in 2019, which should also boost the housing market.

In late 2018, there were fears of multiple rate hikes in 2019, but such worries have now diminished, and we are looking at the possibility of rate cuts in 2019.

This certainly provides a more optimistic outlook for the housing industry in the U.S. in 2019.

The 30-year mortgage rates in the U.S. rose in tandem with the Fed Funds Rate over the last three years, and the positive outlook for the Fed Funds Rate will translate into mortgage rates as well.

Lower than-expected mortgage rates in the U.S. will boost the confidence of residential property buyers, which should result in higher activities in the U.S. housing market.

30-year mortgage rate

30-year average U.S. mortgage rate 2014-2019

(Source – Trading Economics/Mortgage Bankers Association of America)

Existing home sales declined in March

The median sales price of a previously owned home rose 3.8% in March to $259,400, and existing sales dropped 4.9% in March compared to reported figures in February.

Even though macroeconomic factors driving the property sector remained buoyant in March, existing home sales declined, indicating that it would take more time to recover from the lows seen in the latter part of 2018.

Existing U.S. home sales annualized 2013-2019

(Source – Bloomberg)

Inventory increased significantly in some of the most urban areas in the country as home sales declined by double digits in the first quarter of 2019.

Considering the now favorable interest rate environment, this is a bit of a surprise. Still, once again, this proves that buyers are still picky and that home sales will see moderate improvements with time, not the surge expected by many investors.

Metro areas where home sales declined the most in Q1 2019

U.S. metro areas where home sales declined most Q1 2019

(Source – Bloomberg)

New home sales soared in February

As per the latest data, new home sales soared in February to 11-month highs. Total new houses sold were reported at 667,000, with an average sales price of $379,600.

New residential sales seasonally adjusted annualized rate February 2014-2019

(Source – U.S. Census Bureau)

One of the primary reasons behind the surge in new home sales is the improving interest rate outlook for 2019, which will continue to become a tailwind for the industry.

Lower economic growth expectations will hurt the housing industry.

Even though low interest rates are expected to provide a boost to the confidence of buyers, this is an indication of a deteriorating outlook for the economic growth of the country.

Interest rates decline when economic growth is slowing down, precisely what is happening now.

The U.S. GDP grew at a staggering pace over the last several years, and economic growth is now predicted to slow down over the next couple of years as the U.S. economy treads more, plunging into the mature phase.

Decelerating economic growth will prompt consumers to allocate more money for saving purposes and less for discretionary spending, and this will reduce the demand for mortgage loans and homes even though interest rates will remain at supportive levels.

U.S. annualized GDP growth has remained stellar, but the future outlook is problematic

U.S. annualized GDP growth 2014-2019

(Source – Trading Economics/U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis)

The consensus estimate is for the U.S. economy to grow at 2.1% in 2019 and decelerate to 1.8% in 2021.

Federal Reserve median consensus of U.S. economic growth in 2019

(Source – Federal Reserve)

However, there is still a silver line for investors. The tit-for-tat trade tariffs that continued to hurt the U.S. economy in 2018 are finally set to end with the possibility of a trade deal with China, which should boost investor confidence and promote strong economic growth.

Elimination of such geo-political risks should support economic growth in many Asian countries as well, which would help the American economy as well through higher international trading activities.

If economic growth remains at the current levels, it would be fair to assume a meager unemployment rate in the future, which should lead to higher demand for homes.

Historically, a higher level of employment has resulted in higher demand for homes.

Household formations and employment growth

United States household formation and employment growth 1980-2018

(Source – Pretium)

The growth in freelancers and the work-from-home culture should incentivize the youth to build or buy new homes since most of their time would be spent indoors.

From an economic growth perspective, there are mixed signals regarding the future outlook of the housing industry.

While the lower economic growth projections through 2021 are certainly not ideal for the industry, the improving geo-political situation will promote a higher GDP growth rate than initially planned.


Various factors affecting the housing industry in the U.S. were discussed in this report. As things stand today, existing and new home sales are expected to recover from the lows seen in the latter part of 2018.

However, the sustainability of such growth will depend on the level of economic growth.