With home prices at record high levels and mortgage rates at their record highs since the turn of this century, it’s natural to ask if the housing market will be the source of new systemic risk. Over the past year, we have written extensively about “mortgage winter”, a condition where housing demand is held back because of affordability, while at the same time, supply is constrained by current homeowners who are locked into properties by mortgages with rates far below those available in the prevailing market. This is what economists would call a “bad equilibrium”, a state of great strains in the market that tends to persist.
While the housing finance industry is under great duress, the spillover to the broader economy remains limited, as for example, the labor market has held up well despite soaring borrowing costs. Within housing, the notable good economic news is that the extraordinary surge in house prices in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in an astounding 50% surge in the value of homeowner’s equity in real estate since Q1 2020 to over $30 trillion.