Weathering the Storm: Why a Recession Doesn't Automatically Mean a Housing Crisis

Everywhere you look, people are talking about a potential recession. And if you’re planning to buy or sell a house, this may leave you wondering if your plans are still a wise move. To help ease your mind, experts are saying that if we do officially enter a recession, it’ll be mild and short. As the Federal Reserve explained in their March meeting:

“. . . the staff’s projection at the time of the March meeting included a mild recession starting later this year, with a recovery over the subsequent two years.” 

While a recession may be on the horizon, it won’t be one for the housing market record books like the crash in 2008. What we have to remember is that a recession doesn’t always lead to a housing crisis.

To prove it, let’s look at the historical data of what happened in real estate during previous recessions. That way you know why you shouldn’t be afraid of what a recession could mean for the housing market today.  

A Recession Doesn’t Mean Falling Home Prices 

It is true that historical data indicates that home prices have generally appreciated during many recessions. However, it's important to note that real estate market conditions can vary depending on various factors, including the severity and duration of the recession, local market dynamics, and other economic factors.

While there have been instances where home prices declined during recessions, such as during the 2008 housing crisis, there have also been periods where home prices continued to appreciate or experienced only a temporary slowdown. Factors such as housing supply and demand, local economic conditions, and government interventions can influence the behavior of home prices during economic downturns.

It's crucial to consider the broader economic indicators, market conditions, and local factors when assessing the potential impact of a recession on the housing market. Consulting with a local real estate professional who has expertise in your specific market can provide you with a more accurate understanding of how home prices have historically behaved and the potential outlook for your area.

Most people remember the housing crisis in 2008 (the larger of the two red bars in the graph above) and think another recession will be a repeat of what happened to housing then. But today’s housing market isn’t about to crash because the fundamentals of the market are different than they were in 2008. Back then, one of the big reasons why prices fell was because there was a surplus of homes for sale at the same time distressed properties flooded the market. Today, the number of homes for sale is low, so while home prices may see slight declines in some areas and slight gains in others, a crash simply isn’t in the cards.

A Recession Means Falling Mortgage Rates

What a recession really means for the housing market is falling mortgage rates. As the graph below shows, historically, each time the economy slowed down, mortgage rates decreased.

Bankrate explains mortgage rates typically fall during an economic slowdown:

“During a traditional recession, the Fed will usually lower interest rates. This creates an incentive for people to spend money and stimulate the economy. It also typically leads to more affordable mortgage rates, which leads to more opportunity for homebuyers. 

This year, mortgage rates have been quite volatile as they’ve responded to high inflation. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate has hovered between roughly 6-7%, and that’s impacted affordability for many potential homebuyers. 

But, if there is a recession, history tells us mortgage rates may fall below that threshold, even though the days of 3% are behind us.

Bottom Line

You don’t need to fear what a recession means for the housing market. If we do have a recession, experts say it will be mild and short, and history shows it also means mortgage rates go down.

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