Home Sellers Are Slashing Prices in Sudden Halt to Pandemic Boom

Published by Bloomberg | July 1, 2022

The rapid rise in mortgage rates is cooling demand, jolting markets from coast to coast.

The turn in the U.S. housing market has been sharp and swift. Just ask Karlyn and Jack Stenhjem, would-be downsizers who dropped the asking price for their home near Seattle by almost $100,000 since May.

The brick Everett, Washington, house, with private access to lakes and trails, is now available for $899,000, a price that makes Karlyn Stenhjem “cringe.”

“Two months ago our house was valued at $1.1 million on Zillow,” she said. “When you look at the map of listings now, the little red dots are on top of the other little red dots.”

The pandemic housing boom is careening to a halt as the fastest-rising mortgage rates in at least half a century upend affordability for homebuyers, catching many sellers wrong-footed with prices that are too high. It’s an astonishing turnaround. Just a few months ago, house hunters felt pushed to make offers within days, waive inspections and bid way above asking. Now they can sleep on it and maybe even shop for a better deal.

It doesn’t mean real estate is heading for a crash on the order of 2008. But when a market reaches these heights, even a drop toward normalcy will feel steep. And of course, a recession could make everything worse.

“The housing market is absolutely in need of a reset,” said George Ratiu, senior economist at Realtor.com. “Overheated markets are unsustainable. Prices will have to adjust. We’re seeing the slowdown in growth already. The question is whether prices drop or move sideways.”

Home listings, while still low, increased in June at the fastest pace in records dating to 2017, according to data released this week from Realtor.com. The cooling is particularly pronounced in pandemic boom areas such as Las Vegas, Denver and California’s Riverside and Sacramento, as well as further east in Austin, Texas; Raleigh, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; and Tampa, Florida.

Sellers with lofty ambitions are having to pare expectations.

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