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Mortgage debt service ratio to remain low

The surge in mortgage rates has led to a sharp deterioration in home affordability. But that doesn’t mean the mortgage debt service ratio, the share of disposable income spent on mortgage payments, will also surge from its current low level. Existing borrowers are protected by long-term fixed mortgage rates, and tight credit conditions argue against a large rise in debt-to-income ratios for new buyers. While home sales will take a hit from higher interest rates, the housing market will remain resilient to future shocks.

19 May 2022

Existing Home Sales (Apr.)

Existing home sales fell once again in April, although for now they remain above their pre-COVID-19 level. But, with mortgage rates set to stay high and credit conditions unlikely to loosen significantly, sales will fall further this year. Indeed, buyer traffic dropped sharply in April. We expect sales will fall back to around 5m annualised by end-2022.

19 May 2022

Rental growth approaching a peak

Record high rental growth at the start of the year is likely to mark a peak given signs that tenant demand is starting to ease. But strong wage growth and the rising cost of buying as mortgage rates rise mean rental growth is set to ease rather than collapse. Property Drop-In (19th May): What will rising interest rates mean for commercial property returns in the US, UK and Europe? Join our 20-minute briefing on the outlook for returns today at 10:00 ET/15:00 BST. Register now.

19 May 2022
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Housing Starts (Apr.)

Housing starts dropped by a marginal 0.2% m/m in April, driven by the single-family sector which also saw building permits fall for the second month in a row. Housing demand is faltering due to a surge in mortgage interest rates to a 12-year high, which helped push homebuilding confidence to a two-year low in May. That said, pent-up demand from the past couple of years means we are not expecting a crash in housing market activity, and single-family starts will fall gradually to around 1m annualised by end-2022.

Fall in house prices to contribute to lower CPI inflation

The 10% fall in house prices that we expect over the next 12 months will also help to pull down CPI inflation, via its impact on shelter costs. Admittedly, shelter inflation is unlikely to decline meaningfully until 2023, because of soaring mortgage costs, but this is nevertheless one reason to expect headline inflation to drop back sharply next year.

House prices heading for a fall

If we are right that the Bank of England will have to raise interest rates to 3.00% to stamp out inflation then we are on the cusp of the fastest increase in mortgage rates since the late 1980s. That caused house prices to fall by 20%. But the tight labour market, lower loan-to-value ratios, and a lower peak in interest rates mean the drop in prices should be less dramatic this time. We expect house prices to fall by 5% over the next two years, reversing a fifth of the increase since the pandemic began.

RICS Residential Market Survey (Apr.)

The housing market shrugged off the effects of rising mortgage rates and the cost-of-living crisis in April as intense competition between buyers bid up prices further. However, with mortgage rates set to increase sharply over the rest of the year, the days of the pandemic house price boom are now numbered.  

12 May 2022

Mortgage rate rise hits housing market activity

The rise in mortgage rates, to a 12-year high in mid-April, is now starting to weigh on housing market activity, with new and existing home sales falling back over the past couple of months. With rates set to increase to 5.6% by mid-2023, that decline in sales will continue. However, plenty of pent-up demand from the last couple of years means a substantial fall in sales is unlikely. We expect existing home sales to drop to 5m annualised by end-2022, with new home sales seeing a small decline to 700,000 annualised over that period. Single-family starts will also fall back, in part due to the large number of homes now under construction. Rental demand is easing, as the recent surge in rents stretches affordability. That will bring rental growth down from 15.7% y/y at the start of 2022 to around 5% y/y by the end of the year. Beyond that, the boom in apartment starts seen last year will start to boost supply, and vacancy rates will stabilise at around 4.5% from mid-2023.

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