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Perspectives
July 05, 2018

Homeownership: A Considerable Achievement Currently Facing Hurdles

Sam Khater
By
Sam Khater, Vice President and Chief Economist, Economic & Housing Research

We can all remember the great sense of accomplishment felt after achieving a personal goal.

  • Get to Know

    Sam

  • Favorite hobby
    I love a variety of sports such as biking, basketball and longboarding.
  • If you could have dinner with any three people, they would be…?
    Leonard Cohen, Michelangelo and Theodore Adorno
  • If you weren’t Freddie Mac's Chief Economist, you would be…
    An artist or athlete. They both experience the world differently and have phenomenal vision and persistence.
  • Favorite sports team
    Dallas Cowboys
  • Favorite movie
    The Usual Suspects
  • One place you've never visited but would like to see?
    A variety of German and Austrian artisan cities such as Glashutte, Geneva, and Vienna
  • What do you like the most about working at Freddie Mac?
    The people, they are always the most important company asset.

For many people, that rush of joy and emotion was felt when they bought a home for the first time.

Think about it. The path to homeownership is typically a multi-year process that involves a committed savings plan, a close look at your financial situation and a determined search for the perfect home that fits your needs and budget. Only after rounds of negotiations, inspections and paperwork, do you finally get handed the keys to the front door.

If you recently purchased or sold a home in today's low supply market, you may have also encountered competition. In recent years, countless home shoppers have been devastated to learn that their offer was topped by another interested buyer, which means beginning their search all over again.

So why go through this process, and the ups and downs that come with it, when there are other good options, such as renting? Because for many, owning a home is so much more than that. It's a place where families start and grow, memories are made and, over time, wealth is accumulated.

It's why we just celebrated June as National Homeownership Month – taking the time to recognize how important homeownership is to the foundation of our country and economy. In addition to its significant contribution to overall economic growth, studies have shown that owning a home provides stability and rootedness, which can lead to stronger families and children as well as improved health and community outcomes.

Furthermore, for most households, the equity gained in their home over time is by far their largest source of wealth, and a fixed mortgage payment is a great hedge against rent inflation. Equity can also be used in the future for renovations, paying for a child's education or as savings for retirement.

As Freddie Mac's new chief economist, it is my privilege to lead our talented research team. Every day we're developing valuable insights and timely forecasts on the housing market and the economy. Whether you're a mortgage lender looking to improve your bottom line, a renter considering jumping into homeownership, or a homeowner deciding if now is a good time to sell, my hope is that our work provides you with the information you need to make the best decision.

How I see the housing market today and through 2018

If you already own a home, things are likely going well. While there are certainly parts of the country that have not fully recovered from the Great Recession, housing equity in America is at an all-time high, mortgage delinquencies are low and, in today's supply-starved market, chances are good that you'll have multiple buyers knocking on your door if you decide to sell.

Unfortunately, while it's blue skies overall for the housing market, the forecast is partly cloudy for today's homebuyer. The red-hot economy and job market are creating strong interest in buying a home, but the ability to do so has been a challenge for many this year. Available inventory – especially at the lower end of the market – is extremely limited, home prices are steadily rising and, according to our weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey, mortgage rates have jumped over half a percentage point since the beginning of the year.

Despite these market headwinds, we forecast that total home sales (new and existing) will squeak out a small gain of around 3 percent this year, although that gain should be much higher given the considerable pent-up demand there is for buying. Home prices – continuing to feel the upward pressure from meager supply levels – should increase around 6 percent, which is over double the pace of wage growth and is certainly not sustainable in the long-term.

I will be watching closely in the months ahead to see if the uptick in mortgage rates – and the subsequent pressure it's putting on the budgets of homebuyers – begins to play a role in moderating home price growth to a level that is more commensurate with incomes. If so, it would certainly help preserve affordability conditions for those looking to enter the market.

For mortgage lenders, the environment is also challenging. The spike in rates has cratered homeowners' desire to refinance, resulting in what we forecast will be a 7 percent decline in total origination volume this year (to $1.75 trillion).

Even though both opportunities and obstacles exist for participants in today's housing market, there is one thing that is for certain: it's extremely important that households – from booming metropolises to small communities in rural America – have the opportunity to experience the joys of calling a home their own. At Freddie Mac, we are committed to building a better housing finance system that supports safe and affordable housing from coast-to-coast.

I look forward to combining my passion for data and economics in my new role. You will be seeing a lot of new research and commentary from us in coming months.  

Be sure to read our work at FreddieMac.com/Research, and follow me on Twitter at @TheSamKhater for the latest on housing and my other passions (see: sports).  

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