In 2023, military members and civilians dealing with the real estate market faced a relentless challenge. Throughout the year, the struggle persisted due to 30-year high interest and rent rates against an enduring housing shortage. To give you an idea of what real estate professionals are referring to when they say “housing shortage”, it is estimated that 4 million new buyers will enter the market this year, with new construction only amounting to about a third of those homes.
Adding to the complexity – a post-pandemic trend emerged, further complicating housing choices for military members. They now have to compete with civilians for real estate in ‘affordable’ cities near or adjacent to military installations, particularly in Texas and Florida.
So, what awaits military families venturing into the housing market in 2024?
This year, the consensus among real estate professionals and industry researchers is that the highest interest rates of 2023 are behind us. However, opinions vary on how optimistic the overall real estate outlook for 2024 appears. The landscape remains unpredictable with high home prices, low inventory, and inflation casting uncertainty.
As the PCS season gains momentum, military members should stay informed about real estate market news in their potential new locations. Though each local market has its nuances, there are significant trends that military members should be mindful of as they plan their buying, selling, or renting decisions.
Those buying homes will face a mix of favorable and challenging conditions. While experts believe housing inventory will increase slightly, the increase won’t be sufficient to meet demand. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) projects a 13.5% rise in existing home sales by year-end.
Fortunately, mortgage rates are on a downward trend, with NAR estimating an average of 6.3% by the end of the year, though some professionals predict rates closer to 5%. Lower interest rates enhance affordability, but military home buyers (and civilians) should brace for heightened competition. Act swiftly, clean up credit reports, and consider pre-approvals from mortgage lenders to stay ahead.
First-time military buyers might find it challenging to enter the market without the cushion of previous home sale proceeds. Exploring government finance programs like VA and FHA loans, offering zero down payment and zero private mortgage insurance options, could bridge the affordability gap. With home prices appreciating by about 5% over the past year, military home sellers stand in a favorable position, accumulating around $100,000 in housing wealth over three years. Niceville and Valparaiso experienced an approximate 5% increase over the past year, in line with the national average for those who compare our paradise pocket to the rest of the nation.
If you want to sell, especially if you secured a low-interest rate during the two to three percent era – a careful evaluation is needed.
Buying another home at current interest rates may not align with previous financial numbers. Some potential sellers may opt to become landlords, which is a sound decision if they plan to return or use the property as an investment.
Timing is crucial for military home sellers. Capitalize on early PCS season buyer activity or aim for late spring and summer when buyer activity typically peaks. Military renters will face mixed trends, contending with high rents for single-family homes and competing with potential buyers priced out of the market. Exploring new apartments and condos may offer a more affordable solution.
To combat low inventory and high prices, consider starting the rental search early and network with fellow military members for optimal vacancies and moving timelines. As the real estate landscape stabilizes after tumultuous experiences, projections indicate a somewhat positive turnaround, with easing mortgage rates and rising home sales. However, the housing inventory shortage persists, and inflation remains uncertain.
Military members understand that housing poses a significant challenge in every PCS cycle. Whether buying, selling, or renting, navigating the real estate landscape in 2024 requires personal research and support from knowledgeable and military-friendly real estate professionals, including agents, mortgage lenders, and other supporting experts.