Powell’s goal was to crush the real estate market…..
In June 2022, Powell told reporters that spiked mortgage rates would help to “reset” the U.S. housing market, and that “we need to get back to a place where supply and demand are back together and where inflation is down low again, and mortgage rates are low again.”
Then in September 2022, Powell told reporters that we had officially entered into a “difficult correction” that would restore “balance” to the housing market. At the end of November 2022, Powell went a step further, and said a “housing bubble” had formed during the Pandemic Housing Boom.
Last week, Powell said, “The housing market is bottoming and may already be improving.” He made the comment after the central bank kept benchmark rates steady but indicated more hikes may be needed later this year.
“Activity in the housing sector remains weak, largely reflecting higher mortgage rates,” Powell told reporters after the rate announcement. “Certainly, housing is very interest rate-sensitive, and it’s the first place, really, or one of the first places, that’s either helped by lower rates or is held back by higher rates. And we certainly saw that over the course of the last year. We now see housing putting in a bottom and maybe moving up a little bit. We’re watching that situation carefully.”
In his prepared statement yesterday, he said, “Although growth in consumer spending has picked up this year, activity in the housing sector remains weak, largely reflecting higher mortgage rates.”
Then he said,“We think housing inflation will be coming down significantly over the course of the rest of this year and next year. Consumer inflation has eased since last summer due mainly to falling energy and core good prices. In contrast, rents and other housing inflation has been moving higher.”
What he doesn’t see…..
Powell’s comments get turned into headlines, like this:
Potential home sellers take one glance and – even though they aren’t quite sure what he means – they decide the market is no good and that it’s smarter for them to wait for better times. It would take a flood of supply to effectively reset the real estate market, yet his policy is doing the opposite. Plus, his higher rates are pricing out the marginal buyers (the regular people), which creates less competition for those who can withstand higher rates – the affluent buyers.
The end result is affluent people chasing the few sellers who really need to move – just the type of buyer who can, and will, pay more to get what they want now….which will help to keep prices elevated.
What’s likely to happen:
The off-season will commence shortly and there will be fewer sales than ever, with an occasional deal here and there. The trendline will look softer than during the selling season, which will cause Powell and others to abandon the bottom talk and instead declare that their ‘housing inflation’ – code for rising prices – is coming down. Everyone will take it as a sign that the recession is finally here!
Then the 2024 selling season will get rolling in February, confounding the experts even more.
It might take a couple more years before they start believing that home sales are seasonal – if they ever do.