Early 2023 Data Suggests Buyers Are Beginning to Jump Back In
Compass Report, Early February 2023
December is typically the month that sees the year’s lowest level of deal-making activity – i.e. listings accepting offers (going into contract) – which leads to January usually posting the lowest monthly number of closed sales. (Sales typically close 3 to 6 weeks after going into contract.) In the 11-county, greater Bay Area, accepted-offer activity in December 2022 and closed sales volume in January 2023 generally hit their lowest monthly points in 15 years.
Typically, after the long holiday slowdown, the market just begins to wake up in mid-January before accelerating into spring. That being said, inflation has dropped substantially since June and interest rates since November, home prices are well down from last spring, stock markets are up 8% (S&P) to 15% (Nasdaq) YTD as of 2/3/23 (albeit with continuing volatility), and despite escalating layoffs in high tech, early indications in 2023 point to rebounding buyer demand. Open house traffic has jumped, more buyers are requesting listing disclosure packages, and there have been increasing reports of multiple offers and (often unexpected) overbidding of asking price. Based on this preliminary data (much of it still anecdotal*), it appears that buyer demand severely repressed by economic conditions in the 2nd half of 2022 has begun to bounce back.
A similar rebound began in mid-late summer 2022 for similar reasons – a significant drop in mortgage rates and a large rise in stock markets – which then quickly faded when positive economic developments went into reverse. Market activity then slowed further through the rest of 2022. There are currently considerable hopes for a more lasting economic recovery in 2023.
During the long high-tech and pandemic housing boom – which peaked in April/May 2022 – as each year began, the classic dynamic was for buyers to jump back into the market much more quickly than sellers, creating an immediate imbalance between supply and demand. Too few new listings compared to the quantity of motivated buyers sparked often ferocious bidding wars, leading to considerable home price gains virtually every spring. It is too early to conclude, after the general price declines and steep drops in market activity seen in the 2nd half of 2022, that a sustained recovery in market conditions is now underway, and if it is, how quickly it will develop and its impact on prices in 2023. Many economic conditions remain challenging – with critical indicators still much weaker on a year-over-year basis – and forecasts by economists and analysts vary widely. Hopefully, economic conditions will continue to improve, providing the foundation for the recovery in real estate. In the meantime, preliminary indicators are surprisingly positive, and the CEO of Compass recently stated his belief that Q4 2022 saw the bottom of the market.
The “spring market,” which can begin as early as February in the Bay Area, is typically the biggest selling season of the year, especially for luxury homes, and more data regarding new listings coming on market, listings going into contract, sales volumes, speed of sale, overbidding and sales prices will soon become available.* * Most “hard” data in real estate is based on closed, which generally reflects deal-making activity in the previous month, when offers were negotiated. January sales mostly reflect the December 2022 market when new listing activity and buyer demand were at their lowest ebb in years. February and March listing and sales data will begin to better reflect early 2023 conditions.