In 2024, Zillow economists predict home buyers will have more options and a bit more affordability breathing room — but only a bit — after the inventory crunch and mortgage rates rising to 20-year highs were this year’s headline news items.

Buying a home will remain expensive, keeping pressure on the rental market to cater to families that will be renting longer than previous generations typically were. Many of those who do buy will turn to homes that need some work, and do-it-yourself upgrades and repairs will keep new homeowners busy.

Here are Zillow’s predictions for the housing market in 2024:

More homes will hit the market as homeowners accept that mortgage rates aren’t falling any time soon

“Higher for longer” is the key refrain regarding mortgage rates looking ahead to the next year in housing. It’s becoming clear that high mortgage rates have some staying power. Expect more homeowners who locked in long-term payments when rates were near all-time lows to list their homes for sale, as they grow weary of waiting for the historically low rates of 2021 to return.

A stubbornly small pool of homes for sale has kept competition fairly high for most of this year, even with high costs limiting the number of active buyers. With mortgage rates rising over the past two years, homeowners have been reluctant to sell, opting instead to hold onto the ultralow interest rate on their current mortgage. Many of those homeowners will have their eye on a home with a bigger (or no) backyard, an extra (or fewer) bedroom, or in their preferred neighborhood across town, and Zillow predicts more of these homeowners will end their holdout for lower rates and go ahead with those moves.

More homes on the market — even the gradual increase Zillow economists expect — would be good news for home buyers, spreading demand and easing upward pressure on prices.

Home buying costs will level off, giving hopeful buyers a chance to catch up

A typical home buyer in October would have spent more than 40% of their earnings on their mortgage payment — an all-time high in Zillow data, which stretches back to the 1990s. While affordability will undoubtedly remain the top concern for potential home buyers in 2024, there is reason to expect those challenges to ease just a bit.

Zillow’s latest forecast calls for home values to hold steady in 2024, falling 0.2%. Predicting how mortgage rates will move is a nearly impossible task, but recent inflation news gives the impression that rates are likely to hold fairly steady as well in the coming months. Taken together, the cost of buying a home looks to be on track to level off next year, with the possibility of costs falling if mortgage rates do.

That would give time for wages and buyers’ savings to catch back up — welcome news after the rapid rise in housing costs over the past two years. Wage growth has held strong, meaning the share of income spent on a mortgage will fall next year even if costs remain the same.

The new starter home will be a single-family rental

Though some improvement for home buying affordability is expected in 2024, many households will continue to be priced out. Demand — and prices — for single-family rentals will continue to increase next year as families look for a more affordable option to enjoy amenities like a private backyard or a home that doesn’t share walls with neighbors.

One possible path to more single-family rental inventory is homeowners deciding to turn their home into an investment property and rent it out rather than selling it when they move. The ultralow mortgage rates held by many existing homeowners make it more likely that this option would pencil out.

More markets will follow New York City’s lead with rental demand surging near downtowns

Throughout much of the pandemic, and even before, suburban rent prices were growing faster than rents in urban neighborhoods. [1] While the gap has narrowed, suburban rents continue to outpace urban rents in most major markets, specifically, 33 of the 50 largest metro areas. [2]

In New York City, data from StreetEasy, Zillow Group’s New York City real estate marketplace, shows demand is surging for rentals in commutable areas with easy access to Downtown or Midtown Manhattan, while areas farther from these office-laden neighborhoods are seeing relatively less demand. StreetEasy experts predict a strong year for Manhattan demand in 2024, and Zillow foresees more markets following suit, with rental demand surging near downtown centers.

Renters looking for a place near downtown will likely have more options with this year’s multi-family-construction boom, which means a huge number of new homes have hit the market. More options for renters looking for a new place means landlords who are trying to attract tenants have more reason to compete with each other on price. That’s a key reason more rental listings are offering concessions.

Traditional home buyers will compete with home flippers for homes that need a little TLC

Typically the target of home flippers, homes that need a little work before they qualify for “dream home” status will have increased interest from buyers shopping for their primary residence.

Inventory has been far below normal for a while, and though Zillow predicts more homes will hit the market in 2024, inventory will remain much lower than pre-pandemic norms. Faced with limited choices, buyers will be willing to overlook small flaws, such as an outdated bathroom or kitchen.

The higher cost of buying a home today makes a flip harder to pencil out, so buyers may face less competition from flippers than they might have in previous years. Even with less chance of being subject to a bidding war, these homes won’t come cheap, so expect buyers to frequent their local hardware stores as they work on DIY home improvements. If Zillow’s 2024 home trends to watch are any indication, expect brutalist-inspired features and sensory gardens to be on home improvement to-do lists, but not “cloffices” or Tuscan kitchen designs.

Artificial intelligence will enhance the home search experience

Generative AI made waves this year, and Zillow expects AI advancements to streamline the home-shopping and home-selling journey in 2024, improving the experience of buyers, sellers and their agents.

Zillow tech experts expect a variety of new tools and technologies designed for real estate agents next year, allowing them more time to connect with more clients and prioritize face-to-face interactions. Agents have been using AI to assist with writing listing descriptions and to create 3D content for their listings. Next year’s advancements are expected to have an emphasis on visual and multimodal capabilities, including more rich media content.

Expect home shoppers to benefit from generative-AI-powered experiences to glean valuable insights and guidance on home financing.

[1] According to Zillow Observed Rent Index data at the ZIP code level. ZIP codes were classified as urban, suburban or rural, and month-over-month and year-over-year changes were then aggregated nationally and across metro areas for each classification; those changes were then averaged.
[2] Year-over-year changes, as of October 2023.

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