First-time homebuyers are poise to make a comeback with the potential for Millennials to flee the nest and enter the housing market on their own. According to Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial, “the Great Recession delayed, but did not destroy, dreams of home ownership.” Now, increased job growth, a return of non-bank lenders to the mortgage market, and the expansion of low down payment options should prompt more buyers to enter the market, according to Swonk.
According to the report, housing starts are expected to rise at a double-digit pace to 1.14 million, the first year above the 1 million unit mark since 2007. Single family starts are expected to show new signs of life. Home sales are expected to rise a moderate 3 percent to 5.7 million.
“We are still digging ourselves out of a hole we fell into in the wake of the ‘taper tandrum’ in 2013,” Swonk said in the report. “We could also expect to see many would-be sellers reluctant to list, which will constrain the supply of home sales.”
Home prices are expected to rise between 6.5 percent and 7.5 percent depending on the measure. This marks acceleration over the pace of appreciation in 2014 and reflects the tight inventories, says Swonk. Tight inventories and a pickup in demand suggest home values will rise faster in 2015.
The housing market is beginning to pick up because of several factors. Entry level pay for new college graduates is expected to rise, mortgage rates are remaining low, and confidence in the economy has surged. Not to mention, credit conditions are expected to ease, with non-bank mortgage lenders trying to target first-time homebuyers by providing them with low down payment options.
However, student loan debt continues to weigh down young borrowers. Those who have defaulted outright are locked out of the housing market, while those who reconstruct their student loans are doing better. Swock says she knew of one young woman who qualified for a $300,000 loan after restructuring her school debt.
“The pool of prospective first-time buyers is limited. Very few Millennials have reached their early 30’s, while Generation Y is considerably smaller,” she said. “That said, we only need a few of those prospective buyers to reenter the market to see a rise in first-time buyer demand.”