The last year has seen the most eye-popping spike in value in history.
While the Covid 19 pandemic initially shut down economies across the globe, the Work from Home movement caused a mass exodus away from metropolitan areas where many large companies are headquartered. Homebuyers have been laying siege on the housing market to the point where houses in the most desirable locations are selling for more than 50% above the asking price in some cases.
This current trend is all thanks to the Fed lowering interest rates last year in response to the pandemic to help bolster the economy.
Lowering the interest rate allows banks to charge less interest on consumer mortgages. When mortgages are cheaper, it may entice would-be home buyers to jump on opportunities, but it also gives current homeowners the ability to re-finance (re-fi) and pocket the cash to use elsewhere. While this was the intended response, the side effects of cheap access to money led to an immense spike in demand for mortgages.
Regarding the demand for houses from new home buyers, there is a potential for the steam to run out of this drive because buyers are being priced out of opportunities. This is partly due to the massive supply and demand imbalance and partly due to raw materials for new houses such as lumber adding so much to the price of a new house, which eventually dissuades buyers away from the market.
The mortgage markets, however, are also running out of steam. It can be inferred from the earnings call from Rocket Companies, Inc. (NYSE: RKT) that the mortgage market is experiencing a price war that, while temporary, is weighing on profits. Mortgage companies are continually fighting to provide consumers with better rates, but this competition can only last for so long.
Whether you’re invested in the mortgage companies, real estate, or are simply an interested home buyer, here are some recommendations of markets to follow to find out if the steam does run out and a correction occurs in the housing market.
Mortgage Writers Rejoice
Mortgage companies like Rocket Companies, owner of Quicken Loans, North American Savings Bank (OTC: NASB), and Chase Bank (NYSE: JPM) saw massive profits during 2020 and early parts of 2021 as the demand for mortgages skyrocketed. They expanded services, increased employee pay, and saw growth like they hadn’t seen since before the financial crisis in 2008.
While banks generally learned their lesson the last time around, this time is different. Back in 2008, the methods used by banks to get people to sign on the dotted lines were sometimes less than savory. This led to a sharp rise in risky mortgages that eventually led to waves of defaults that the financial system wasn’t prepared to handle.
This time, the consumers have run at banks with their money and demanded mortgages. On top of this, the mortgages being written are for individuals who meet lenders’ requirements. According to this credit repair report, companies are more sophisticated now as well, and they are helping even more people get good rates and adding to the numbers flocking to mortgage companies.
However, the world is emerging from life during Covid, and the mortgage companies will be the ones to show the first signs of a cooling market. It may have already started, as mentioned before during Rocket Companies, Inc.’s earnings call.
The Luxuries of Home Improvement
Amazon will indeed rule the world if it can ever pose a threat to home improvement giants like Home Depot (NYSE: HD) and Lowe’s (NYSE: LOW).
While both companies certainly specialize in retail home improvement supply, the bulk of their business is from commercial sales in contractor supplies. If you’ve ever tried to go to a Home Depot or Lowe’s on a Saturday morning, you’ve seen the lines of contractor trucks pulling through the bay to pick up cords of PVC, lumber, and other materials. These items are not easy to ship. All the better for the continued legacy of both of these companies.
The consistent profits for Home Depot and Lowe’s over the last year have largely been fueled by both the new home market and the refinance market. New homes depend on raw materials to build, and if the market for new homes begins to cool, Home Depot and Lowe’s will be the stocks to watch. However, the new home sales market tends to lag behind existing home sales since new homes are often built by large development companies as inventory before they are sold to home buyers.
To a much larger degree, home improvement projects have seen massive growth due to homeowners refinancing their mortgages and using the savings to build upon home values. This may represent the bulk of the correlation between home improvement stocks and the mortgage market. While the home improvement market is expected to rise in the coming years, a fall in revenues could point to a cooling in refinance applications.
The mortgage market relies on bringing customers to the table to sign papers.
However, there are only so many willing buyers, and most of them have been drawn out over the last year for a variety of reasons including the Work from Home movement, extra savings built up due to lockdowns, and historically low interest rates.
While business has been good, the world emerging from the current crisis may signal a cooling in the housing market, though not to the extent of the 2008 financial crisis. Keeping track of mortgage writing and home improvement companies may provide an idea of where the sentiment lies and allow investors to prepare for changing markets in the near future.
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