A recent survey of over 100 real estate experts and investment and market strategists asked panelists to predict the path of home values through 2018. Even the pessimists expect home prices to rise for the next five years. The idea that homes are a good stable investment has largely been debunked, in particular by Yale economist Robert Shiller. As usual, he is reluctant to declare that home prices had bottomed. With that said, home prices are impressively up 23% from their March 2012 lows.
On average, panelists say they expected nationwide home value appreciation of 4.5 percent this year, with a steady slowdown in appreciation rates each year through 2018. But it’s worth noting that the most pessimistic quartile of those surveyed also see prices going up. It’s a modest amount, but they see prices going up a cumulative 10.9% through 2018. That’s a 2.1% rate annualized. Based on current expectations for home value appreciation during the next five years, panelists predicted that overall U.S. home values could exceed their April 2007 peak by the first quarter of 2018
Should we be worried that almost no one sees prices falling? The good news is that all of these home price bulls don’t see prices accelerating to bubble-era rates. Throughout the recovery, large-scale investors have purchased thousands of homes nationwide, particularly lower-priced vacant and foreclosed homes, fixing them up and keeping them in their portfolios as rental properties. This investor activity helped put a floor under sales volumes during the depth of the housing recession, but also created competition for many would-be buyers and contributed to rapid price spikes in some areas.
Panelists were also asked when the Federal Reserve should end its ongoing stimulus efforts, known as “quantitative easing.” Since September 2012, the Fed has been purchasing tens of billions of dollars worth of Treasury bonds and mortgage securities each month, which has helped keep mortgage interest rates low and stimulate demand. The program is now being wound down. More than 70 percent of the experts want to see the monetary stimulus reduced to zero before the end of this year, and the current pace of tapering will get us there.