Market Overview

The Surprising Impact of Rising Rates on Market Potential, According to First American Potential Home Sales Model


—This puts the likely rise in mortgage rates into perspective –
they are unlikely to materially impact the housing market, says Chief
Economist Mark Fleming—

American Financial Corporation
leading global provider of title insurance, settlement services and risk
solutions for real estate transactions, today released First American's
proprietary Potential Home Sales Model for the month of April 2018.

April 2018 Potential Home Sales

  • Potential existing-home sales increased to a 5.99 million seasonally
    adjusted annualized rate (SAAR), a 0.7 percent month-over-month
  • This represents a 60.6 percent increase from the market potential low
    point reached in February 2011.
  • The market potential for existing-home sales increased by 1.9 percent
    compared with a year ago, a gain of 114,000 (SAAR) sales.
  • Currently, potential existing-home sales is 1.29 million (SAAR), or
    17.7 percent below the pre-recession peak of market potential, which
    occurred in July 2005.

Market Performance Gap

  • The market for existing-home sales is underperforming its potential by
    6.5 percent or an estimated 392,000 (SAAR) sales.
  • The market performance gap decreased by an estimated 39,000 (SAAR)
    sales between March 2018 and April 2018.

Chief Economist Analysis: Examining Two Rising Rate Scenarios

"In April, the housing market continued to underperform its potential.
Existing-home sales were 6.5 percent below the market's potential for
existing-home sales, according to our Potential Home Sales Model," said
Mark Fleming, chief economist at First American. "Lack of supply remains
the primary culprit. The inventory of homes for sale in most markets
remains historically low, yet demand continues to rise as millennials
further age into homeownership.

"One reason housing supply remains limited is because the majority of
existing homeowners have 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages with historically
low rates. Now that rates are rising, they are hesitant to sell their
homes because there is less incentive to sell," said Fleming. "If they
sell, they would lose the low mortgage rate they currently have and
replace it with a higher rate and a more expensive monthly loan payment.
As mortgage rates rise further, more existing homeowners will become
rate-locked into their current homes.

"Given April's 30-year, fixed mortgage rate of 4.47 percent, the market
potential for existing-home sales at a seasonally adjusted annualized
rate (SAAR) is 5.99 million," said Fleming. "The early estimate of the
annualized rate of existing-home sales in April was 5.60 million, so the
market is underperforming its potential by an estimated 392,000 (SAAR)

Surprise – Rate Increases of 25 or 50 Basis Points Have Little Impact
on Market Potential

"But, what may happen if mortgage rates increase another 25 or 50 basis
points? According to our Potential Home Sales Model, if the 30-year,
fixed-rate mortgage increases another 25 basis points, market potential
for existing-home sales would fall by 11,500 sales. If the mortgage rate
increased by 50 basis points, the market potential for existing-home
sales would fall by 23,000 sales," said Fleming. "While both increased
rate scenarios reduce the market potential for existing-home sales, the
reduction is small compared with the overall market potential for
existing-home sales – almost 6 million sales.

"Understanding the resiliency of the housing market in a rising mortgage
rate environment puts the likely rise in mortgage rates into perspective
– they are unlikely to materially impact the housing market," said
Fleming. "While interest rates may rise, the
driving force behind the increase are healthy economic conditions that
are favorable to consumers
. The healthy economy encourages more
homeownership demand and spurs household income growth, which increases
consumer house-buying power. Mortgage rates are on the rise because of a
stronger economy and our housing market is well positioned to adapt."

What Insight Does the Potential Home Sales Model Reveal?

"When considering the right time to buy or sell a home, an important
factor in the decision should be the market's overall health, which is
largely a function of supply and demand. Knowing how close the market is
to a healthy level of activity can help consumers determine if it is a
good time to buy or sell, and what might happen to the market in the
future. That's difficult to assess when looking at the number of homes
sold at a particular point in time without understanding the health of
the market at that time," said Fleming. "Historical context is
critically important. Our Potential Home Sales Model measures what home
sales should be based on the economic, demographic and housing market

Next Release

The next Potential Home Sales Model will be released on June 19, 2018
with May 2018 data.

About the Potential Home Sales Model

Potential home sales measures existing-homes sales, which include
single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops on a seasonally
adjusted annualized rate based on the historical relationship between
existing-home sales and U.S. population demographic data, income and
labor market conditions in the U.S. economy, price trends in the U.S.
housing market, and conditions in the financial market. When the actual
level of existing-home sales are significantly above potential home
sales, the pace of turnover is not supported by market fundamentals and
there is an increased likelihood of a market correction. Conversely,
seasonally adjusted, annualized rates of actual existing-home sales
below the level of potential existing-home sales indicate market
turnover is underperforming the rate fundamentally supported by the
current conditions. Actual seasonally adjusted annualized existing-home
sales may exceed or fall short of the potential rate of sales for a
variety of reasons, including non-traditional market conditions, policy
constraints and market participant behavior. Recent potential home sale
estimates are subject to revision in order to reflect the most
up-to-date information available on the economy, housing market and
financial conditions. The Potential Home Sales model is published prior
to the National Association of Realtors' Existing-Home Sales report each


Opinions, estimates, forecasts and other views contained in this page
are those of First American's Chief Economist, do not necessarily
represent the views of First American or its management, should not be
construed as indicating First American's business prospects or expected
results, and are subject to change without notice. Although the First
American Economics team attempts to provide reliable, useful
information, it does not guarantee that the information is accurate,
current or suitable for any particular purpose. © 2018 by First
American. Information from this page may be used with proper attribution.

About First American

First American Financial Corporation (NYSE:FAF) is a leading
provider of title insurance, settlement services and risk solutions for
real estate transactions that traces its heritage back to 1889. First
American also provides title plant management services; title and other
real property records and images; valuation products and services; home
warranty products; property and casualty insurance; and banking, trust
and wealth management services. With total revenue of $5.8 billion in
2017, the company offers its products and services directly and through
its agents throughout the United States and abroad. In 2018, First
American was named to the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work
For® list for the third consecutive year. More information
about the company can be found at

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