The story for U.S. housing was simple in the 2010s...
The housing collapse from the prior decade meant prices were low. It also spooked homebuilders. So overall, these companies built new homes at one of the slowest paces on record.
Combined with near-zero interest rates, it was a recipe for a housing boom. Demand skyrocketed. And prices soared across the country as a result.
Then, a decade later, inflation hit. Interest rates jumped... and so did mortgage rates – to more than 7%. Suddenly, the highly affordable housing market became one of the least affordable markets on record.
What happened next stumped a lot of folks, though...
Home prices didn't crash.
There are plenty of reasons why. But one setup explains the situation best. Even more important, this housing oddity likely isn't ending anytime soon... And that means the housing crash that everyone expects probably isn't coming.
Let me explain...
Not only has housing not crashed, but it has hardly even budged lower.
The median sales price of new homes is up over the past year. And for existing homes, the median sales price only declined by about 1%.
That comes as a shock to most folks. They think prices should have plummeted due to soaring mortgage rates and crashing affordability. But that idea misses a fundamental problem in the housing market...
We don't have nearly enough homes available for sale right now.
That means demand needs to fall much further before it can push prices lower. But that outcome looks a lot less likely once we dig deeper into the supply issue.
To see it, let's look at the months' supply for the housing market. This tells us how long it would take to sell all of the available homes for purchase at the current sales rate.
The data breaks down into two categories: new and existing homes. These numbers usually sit near each other. But we've seen extreme divergence in the past couple of years. Check it out...
This chart shows the months' supply of existing homes subtracted from the months' supply of new homes. Today's level means it would take nearly six more months to sell the entire inventory of new homes compared with the time it would take to sell all the existing homes.
Not only is that figure near a record high, but it also means housing prices aren't likely to crash anytime soon. That's because it shows that new homes make up most of the U.S. housing supply... And new homes are priced higher than existing homes.
In the most recent data, newly built U.S. homes sold for a median price of $449,800. Existing homes sold for a median price of $375,700. That's a new-home premium of $74,100, or around 20% more expensive.
With so few existing homes available, homebuyers will only have higher-priced new homes to choose from. That'll happen whether they like it or not (since housing isn't an option – you need it).
As more folks buy expensive new homes, it should put a floor under the entire market.
It's important to note that the months' supply situation is more of a symptom than a cause of the "big picture" problem with prices. We simply don't have enough homes in the U.S. We underbuilt for a decade, and now we're paying for it.
The supply-and-demand equation is out of whack. Nothing will change that fact overnight... And while it's not good news for homebuyers today, it all but guarantees that a housing crash is off the table.
"With mortgage rates up, prices are sure to come down somewhat," Brett explains. "But there will be winners and losers." One trend is taking over among American homebuyers – and it's going to decide which housing markets keep booming in the years ahead... Read more here.
"America is millions of housing units short of what it needs," Brett writes. Investors have been fleeing housing stocks. But the supply-and-demand picture tells us their fear is overblown. In fact, it means one specific sector could lead to long-term profits... Learn more here.