A new survey finds that Americans are woefully misinformed about the nation’s volatile housing market, even as millions prepare to buy homes.
Twenty-eight million Americans plan to buy a home in 2023, according to a survey published Tuesday by NerdWallet, the personal finance company. On average, they expect to spend $269,200.
But that number is more than $100,000 below the median home price, which was $388,100 in December, according to real estate brokerage Redfin. Home prices crossed the $269,000 threshold sometime in 2013, Federal Reserve statistics show.
If potential homebuyers sound oddly bullish on prices, that may be because they’re pessimistic about the state of the housing market. Two-thirds of Americans surveyed said they expect an imminent accident.
Real estate economists don’t. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, forecast a median sales price of $385,800 this year, more or less the same as last year. Redfin predicts a 4 percent drop: Bad news for sellers, but hardly an accident.
“Home prices have already been falling, especially on the West Coast, and prices will fall in some cities by 2023,” said Holden Lewis, a home and mortgage expert at NerdWallet. “But a drop in home prices is not necessarily a crash.”
Another head scratcher: 61 percent of Americans told pollsters that today’s mortgage rates are unprecedented, meaning they’ve never been seen before.
“We actually defined it,” said Elizabeth Renter, a data analyst at NerdWallet.
The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage hit 6.15 percent last week, according to the Fed. That’s higher than most mortgage rates in recent years, which have hovered below 3 percent at times.
But it is not unprecedented. Over the past 50 years, NerdWallet reports, 30-year mortgage rates have averaged 7.75 percent. Mortgage rates in the 6 to 7 percent range were common as recently as 2008.
Homebuyers have been enjoying a climate of record low rates for more than a decade. The Federal Reserve slashed rates in the Great Recession of 2008 to stimulate the economy, a campaign that continued, on and off, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Runaway inflation triggered a dramatic series of increases in 2022, bringing mortgage rates back to “normal” levels, at least in a historical sense.
The new survey of 2,051 American adults, conducted by the Harris Poll for NerdWallet, is the latest iteration of an annual survey. Pollsters have found overconfident homebuyers for several years in a row.
“We know for the last five years that about 10 percent of Americans say they are going to buy a home in the next 12 months, which is tremendously optimistic,” Renter said. “Part of this could be because they’re not aware of what’s going on in the housing market.”
Nearly 30 million Americans plan to buy a home in 2023. In all likelihood, only a small percentage of them will succeed: only 6 million existing homes sold in 2021.
The survey found more realism by asking respondents how their 2022 home-buying plans had broken down.
Seventy percent of Americans who had planned to buy a home in 2022 failed to do so. Some of them made offers that were not accepted. Others shelved their plans because they couldn’t find affordable housing.