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As everyone knows by now, rising interest rates and low supply have been the most significant factors shaping the real estate market since 2022.
The Federal Reserve began raising key interest rates in March 2022 in response to skyrocketing inflation. Following the pandemic-era sharp rises in the cost of materials and products across several industries, inflation in the immediate aftermath shot to its highest levels in 40 years. To tackle these high inflation rates, the Fed raised rates 11 times between March 2022 and July 2023, from almost zero to 5.5%.
These interest rate hikes ended the era of historically low mortgage interest rates. Typical rates ranged between 3.4% for a 15-year fixed mortgage and 4.2% for a 30-year fixed mortgage in February 2022. By October 2023, rates topped 8%—the highest since 1971. Mortgage rates did begin coming down by the end of 2023 after several months of the Fed deciding to hold key rates and not raise them any further.
The soaring interest rates, in combination with a heavily depleted inventory and high home prices, created an inhospitable environment for buyers. The result: As of December 2023, home sales activity dropped to its lowest level in 28 years, according to newly released data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
From an investor’s perspective, this level of pressure on the housing market translates into a worry about the market eventually caving in and home values falling off a cliff. This hasn’t happened, and home prices have continued to grow in many parts of the country, seemingly against all odds.
However, there is a concrete reason why home prices are continuing to grow despite the interest rate hikes: pent-up demand going back to the beginning of the pandemic that cannot be satisfied by current limited inventory. So, the real estate market as a whole was still defined by growth in 2023. As of December 2023, the median home price in the U.S. was $382,600, up 4.4% from $366,500 in December 2022.
National averages like these typically conceal the regional realities of the real estate market. It is always more accurate (and more useful for investors) to talk about real estate markets. We pulled data and averaged the median sales price of the top 100 markets in the U.S. from 2022 and 2023 and compared them to find year-over-year growth rates. The results show strong regional disparities consistent with post-pandemic regional market trends.
Affordability was the single most important factor in buyers’ decisions from at least the middle of 2022 when mortgage rates first began climbing. It was, of course, a huge factor before that, too, and drove pandemic-era migration patterns, including the by-now infamous Sun Belt boom that saw cities like Austin, Texas, and Phoenix experience unprecedented increases in demand.
Notably, Austin and Phoenix both recorded substantial home price growth decreases in 2023, according to our data set. Austin’s home price growth rate