Even the Rich Can’t Afford Housing

The decline in home sales affects the luxury industry, as well. 

Since the start of 2022, 30-year permanent mortgage rates have risen from just over three percent to well over five percent, resulting in a decline in demand for new acquisition loans and restructuring services.

April’s new single-family house sales were $591,000, far below the $750,000 predicted by economists and 16.6 percent lower than March sales.

Elevated Prices

According to data obtained by the Wall Street Journal from real estate company Redfin, sales of luxury properties (the top 5% of the market) fell 18% from February to April 2022, when compared to the same period the previous year.

Nevertheless, prices remain elevated. 

“Many homebuyers are determining it’s simply not worth it to acquire a luxury property at a time when both the price and the cost of financing are so high,” said Joel Griffith, a research associate at the Heritage Foundation. 

Indeed, continuing economic constraints, such as distribution network constraints and labor market shortfalls that exacerbate overall inflation rates, are causing consumers to halt and directly influence the housing market.

The falling stock market is also causing luxury purchasers to be hesitant. 

Relative to lower-priced homes, a bigger proportion of the purchase price is paid in cash —rather than through a mortgage— because the cost frequently exceeds conforming loan limitations.

Many buyers are reluctant to sell stocks at low prices in order to buy real estate at inflated —and possibly bubble— prices.

This situation has not occurred since the 2008 housing market meltdown.

Family Income

Griffith noted home prices are currently increasing at a quicker rate than family income. 

The current housing price-to-median income ratio reaches 7.2%, surpassing the peak of 7.03% in late 2005.

From 1980 to 2000, the ratio was much below 5.0%, he said. In just one year, mortgage payments based on the median home price have gone up by more than 40 percent.

This is because home prices have gone up and mortgage rates have almost doubled. In February, the ratio of mortgage payments to income reached 34.9%, the lowest affordability level since 2008. 

In a broader sense, inflation led to a dramatic decrease in actual average hourly earnings in the United States, notwithstanding the low unemployment rate.

Even though nominal earnings increased between May 2021 and May 2022, the quicker inflation rate caused real wages to decrease by three percent.

For an individual earning $50,000 annually, increased prices have effectively resulted in a $1,500 annual salary loss. 

High-income Americans who still wish to own real estate may be less interested in middle-class homes, increasing the strain on American families. 

“As higher-income, wealthier homebuyers are precluded from acquiring luxury properties, this may increase demand for smaller, more modest residences,” said Griffith.

Middle-class families may find themselves vying with affluent families for homes at reduced prices. 

In addition to the current economic situation, supply and demand mismatches affect the residential property market.

The building of new long-term accommodation has slowed over the last several decades, resulting in a market shortage of approximately six million dwellings.