Housing Slowdown in 2019 Is Good for Everyone: Economist

January 11, 2019

By Carlo Versano

The housing market is slowing down ー and that's not necessarily a bad thing. So says Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist for LendingTree, who told Cheddar Friday what to expect from the housing market this year.

The partial government shutdown has undoubtedly created some uncertainty in the market, Kapfidze said. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the FHA, and the VA are among the lenders working to help federal workers unable to pay their mortgages as the shutdown becomes the longest in U.S. history.

Fannie and Freddie have activated their disaster response plans ー usually reserved for natural calamities like wildfires and hurricanes ー to allow some families to go into forbearance on their payments without having to worry about late fees until their pay is reinstated. Kapfidze advised federal employees worried about missing a monthly payment to call their lenders and ask for a forbearance.

If the shutdown continues, it could impact new buyers and homeowners looking to refinance, some of whom are already experiencing delays in their mortgage applications from federal agencies that can't verify their incomes. "The longer the shutdown goes, the less money [those agencies] have," Kapfidze said.

Even without accounting for the shutdown, LendingTree anticipates housing prices will slow to a rate of 3 percent year-over-year, from what has been an average of 5 percent, according to Kapfidze.

"We're getting a deceleration in home prices even without this government shutdown."

Mortgage rates have fallen 50 basis points on concerns about growth ー even as the Fed raised its benchmark interest rate 25 bps. That's proof that the two indicators are not tied to each other, according to Kapfidze: "They're not connected in the way people often think."

But he still expects mortgage interest rates to rise in the year ahead ー potentially as high as 5.5 percent. Notably, LendingTree said that spike is attributable to income growth ー and that the labor market is strong enough to make a 2019 recession unlikely.

For full interview click here.