As we expected, the Federal Reserve raised the Fed Funds Rate to a range of 5.00% – 5.25%. Remember, this interest rate affects short-term loans like credit cards, autos, and home equity lines of credit.
The big question is whether this will be the last hike. When the Fed statement was released, the markets believed the Fed was signaling a pause by omitting the following line from the previous statement: “The Committee anticipates that some additional policy firming may be appropriate.”
However, shortly after the statement was released, Fed Chair Powell hosted a press conference and right at the top said the Fed Members have not discussed a “pause” in rates. Bottom line? Expect more uncertainty and volatility as it relates to rates.
Sound And Resilient
This is the term Fed Chair Powell used to describe the banking sector. Unfortunately, we are seeing more banks have issues. This week it was First Republic taken over by JP Morgan Chase and as of this writing PacWest was said to be “exploring strategic options.” The fear of banking contagion has elevated uncertainty in the financial markets. It’s not clear if and how many more banks will continue to have issues. Bottom line? The fear of this story has created a “safe haven” to trade into bonds where prices move higher, and rates move lower.
European Central Bank Hikes By Less
The European Central Bank (ECB) hiked their benchmark rate by .25%, the smallest since the start of their hiking cycle. Like our Fed, they too signaled they would be “data-dependent” going forward, leading markets to speculate a pause on future rate hikes.
Bottom line: The Federal Reserve is sending mixed messages on the future direction of rates. Meanwhile, long-term rates, which the Fed doesn’t control, are near their best levels in months and sense all the uncertainty in our economy will prompt the Fed to pause and potentially cut rates later this year. The incoming data and issues in the banking system will determine what happens next.
Expect market volatility to continue next week. The Consumer Price Index (inflation) will be reported. If this number comes in higher than expected, rates could rise. The opposite is true. Despite this being a backward-looking number, we will have Fed officials continue to speak and comment on the release and how they feel it impacts future Fed policy and interest rate decisions.
Good morning. The Fed must choose between two unpleasant options today. It’s a reminder of the high cost of weak bank oversight.
The Federal Reserve building. Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times
BY DAVID LEONHARDT
The New York Times
March 22, 2023
Inflation — or turmoil?
The Federal Reserve faces a difficult decision at its meeting that ends this afternoon: Should Fed officials raise interest rates in response to worrisome recent inflation data — and accept the risk of causing further problems for banks? Or should officials pause their rate increases — and accept the risk that inflation will remain high?
This dilemma is another reminder of the broad economic damage that banking crises cause. In today’s newsletter, I’ll first explain the Fed’s tough call and then look at one of the lessons emerging from the current banking turmoil. Above all, that turmoil is a reminder of the high costs of ineffective bank regulation, which has been a recurring problem in the U.S.
The Fed’s dilemma
The trouble for the Fed is that there are excellent reasons for it to continue raising interest rates and excellent reasons for it to take a break. On the one hand, the economic data in recent weeks has suggested that inflation is not falling as rapidly as analysts expected. Average consumer prices are about 6 percent higher than a year ago, and forecasters expect the figure to remain above 3 percent for most of this year. That’s higher than Fed officials and many families find comfortable. For much of the 21st century, inflation has been closer to 2 percent.
An inflation rate that remains near 4 percent for an extended period is problematic for several reasons. It cuts into buying power and gives people reason to expect that inflation may stay high for years. They will then ask their employers for higher wages, potentially causing a spiral in which companies increase their prices to pay for the raises and inflation drifts even higher. Today’s tight job market, with unemployment near its lowest level since the 1960s, adds to these risks. The economy still seems to be running hotter than is sustainable.
This situation explains why Fed officials had originally planned to continue raising their benchmark interest rate at today’s meeting — thereby slowing the economy by increasing the cost of homes, cars and other items that people buy with debt. Some Fed officials favored a quarter-point increase, which would be identical to the increase at the Fed’s meeting last month. Others preferred a half-point increase, in response to the worrisome recent inflation data.
The banking troubles of the past two weeks scrambled these plans. Why? In addition to slowing the economy, higher interest rates depress the value of many financial assets (as these charts explain). Some bank executives did a poor job planning for these asset declines, and their balance sheets suffered. When customers became worried that the banks would no longer have enough money to return their deposits, a classic bank run ensued. It led to the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, and others remain in jeopardy.
If Fed officials continue raising their benchmark rate, they risk damaging the balance sheets of more banks and causing new bank runs. That’s why a half-point increase now seems less likely. Some economists (including The Times’s Paul Krugman) have urged the Fed to avoid any additional increases for now. Many analysts expect the Fed will compromise and raise the rate by a quarter point; Jason Furman, a former Obama administration official, leans toward that approach.
The decision is unavoidably fraught. The Fed must choose between potentially exacerbating problems in the financial markets and seeming to go soft on inflation.
Why bailouts happen
All of which underscores the high cost of banking crises. In most industries, a company’s collapse doesn’t cause cascading economic problems. In the financial markets, the collapse of one firm can lead to a panic that feeds on itself. Investors and clients start withdrawing their money. A recession, or even a depression, can follow.
These consequences are the reason that government officials bail out banks more frequently than other businesses. Bailouts, of course, have huge downsides: They typically use taxpayer money (or other banks’ money) to subsidize affluent bank executives who failed at their jobs. “Nobody is as privileged in the entire economy,” Anat Admati, a finance professor at Stanford University’s business school, told me.
During a crisis, bailouts can be unavoidable because of the economic risks from bank collapses. The key question, then, is how to regulate banks rigorously enough to minimize the number of necessary bailouts.
Over the past few decades, the U.S. has failed to do so. After the financial crisis of 2007-9, policymakers tightened the rules through the Dodd-Frank Act. But Congress and the Trump administration loosened oversight for midsize banks in 2018 — and Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank were two of the firms that stood to benefit.
As complicated as finance can be, the basic principles behind bank regulation are straightforward. Banks require special scrutiny from the government because they may receive special benefits from taxpayers during a crisis. This scrutiny includes limits on the risks that banks can take and requirements that they keep enough money in reserve to survive most foreseeable crises. “You make sure they have enough to pay,” as Admati put it.
Bank executives and investors often bristle at such rules because they reduce returns. Money held in reserve, after all, cannot be invested elsewhere and earn big profits. It also can’t go poof when hard times arrive.
“The strong Jobs Report shows you why we think this will be a process that takes a significant period of time.” Fed Chair Powell 2/7/23.
BY EPHRAIM SCHWARTZ
Partner, Mortgage Consultant CMPS
O’Dette Mortgage Group
February 14, 2023
The Federal Reserve has a dual mandate, which is to maintain price stability (inflation) and promote maximum employment. On the inflation front, it appears inflation has indeed peaked and is on the decline. The Fed Chair reiterated the “disinflationary process” has begun. This is a positive development for the economy, housing, and long-term rates.
On the labor market front of the Fed’s mandate, the Fed in its desire to slow demand and thus inflation, wants to see some unemployment. The good news/bad news? Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the unemployment rate at 3.4%, the lowest in 53 years…that is good news. The bad news is it means the Fed will look to raise rates by .25% in March and another .25% in May, thereby lifting the Fed Funds Rate above 5.00%.
This renewed outlook for a higher Fed Funds Rate has elevated uncertainty and volatility in long-term rates, which move up and down based on economic conditions and inflation, both of which are easing and a reason why long-term rates are lower than short-term rates.
“Likely to see some softening in labor market conditions” – Powell
This is a reasonable assumption considering the number of planned layoffs announced this year, while we sit at multi-decade low unemployment, it seems like up is the only direction for unemployment.
Soft Landing Back in Play
Due to the current strength of the labor market, there is a growing chance the Fed can raise rates and lower inflation towards its 2.00% target without triggering a deep recession.
History has shown that recessions do not take place with unemployment at 4% or below without some sort of surprise shock to the economy.
Let’s hope the Fed is not too successful in “creating” unemployment because if it quickly rises, the idea of a soft economic landing could go away quickly too.
As we mentioned, long-term rates have responded negatively to last week’s strong jobs report, because good news is bad news for bonds and rates. The 10-yr Note touched 3.33% last Thursday and touched 3.70% just a few days later. However, rates remain beneath where the 10-yr yield opened 2023 at 3.85%.
“We are going to react to the data” – Powell
Here the Fed Chair reminds the markets that last Friday’s Jobs report was strong, but backward looking and lagging while other economic indicators show signs of s slowdown. The Fed does not want to over hike rates into a slowing economy and be the reason for the recession. So, while the market is currently pricing in two more rate hikes and a rate cut in December, this story could quickly change once again.
Bottom line:Rates and inflation have peaked. Housing activity has jumped in the past weeks as a result. The incoming data will determine how much better rates can get in the next few weeks leading to the next Fed Meeting.
Next week’s CPI is a very important number. If it meets or comes in lower than expectations, we could see home loan rates revisit the levels seen last week right before the Jobs Report last Friday. We will also see the latest readings on housing and the strength of the consumer, by way of Retail Sales. As fast as the story changed when the strong jobs data hit, things can change quickly upon these reports.
The all important CPI (consumer price index) inflation came out this morning and mixed news; the year over year January CPI report fell to 6.4%, which was a hair lower than last month’s 6.5% – which is good, but higher than market expectations of 6.2% – which could have been better.
Reminder inflation is the arch enemy of bond prices, and therefore mortgage rates, and the reason we’ve seen mortgage rates improve since what appears to have been the peak in November is because inflation has been coming down. CPI peaked last summer at 9.1%, and has since been steadily decreasing. It was the November & December CPI reports coming in lower than market expectations that were the impetus for mortgage rates improving over the past few months, and then last months data at 6.5% came in right at expectations, so today’s report was much anticipated and bucked the prior three month trend and came in higher than expectations.
Looking at the numbers from a month over month perspective, which is arguably the most relevant in measuring present trend, the month over month figure was up 0.5%, which was up from 0.1% last month. Shelter (housing) is the biggest factor here increasing 0.7%, making up the majority of the month over month numbers. National housing costs are not coming down.
This month’s jobs & CPI reports are now behind us, the labor marker remains very strong, and inflation is moving lower, albeit slowly. Inflation creeping lower is good, but as expected we should not expect a straight-line drop in prices, and there will be slower and outright pauses in declines going forward.
As a result of this morning’s CPI report, bond yields/mortgage rates have ticked a hair higher. See chart below of the 10 yr T, which jumbo rates are based on, for a graphical context. As you can see, rates peaked first week in November, have since come down a bit, and now giving up a bit of ground.
Regarding conversations with clients; 30 yr fixes in the 6%’s with option of getting into the 5% with points, is a healthy “normal” place for them to be, and still well below historical long term averages. We’re still seeing jumbo rates notably lower than conforming (approx ~.625% .75%). Lastly, even after rates have improved, considering grossing up a sale price & requesting a seller credit can still be a good strategy to get buyers into not just a more palatable rate, but one that is really quite good and a loan they may hold for as long as they’re in the property.
Gross Domestic Product, a measure of economic growth, for the Fourth Quarter 2022 showed the economy expanded at a 2.9% annual rate, down slightly from the 3.2% rate in the Third Quarter 2022. Seeing the economy grow in the back half of 2022 after negative growth in the first half of 2022 is good news.
This positive reading elevates the chance of a “soft landing” by the Fed, where they hike rates to slow inflation but do not slip us into a recession.
Unemployment Line is Historically Short
Initial Jobless Claims for December came in at 186,000…the lowest reading in 9 months. This is also good news as it tells us the length of the unemployment line. If the amount of people signing up for first time unemployment benefits remains near historical lows, it further lowers the chance of a recession. Moreover, it highlights the continued strength in the labor market, and this is paramount as jobs buy homes. Yes, we want interest rates to move lower but if someone doesn’t have a job or is in fear of losing their job, they can’t commit to a home purchase. Let’s hope the labor market remains strong as the Fed continues to hike rates to slow demand and lower inflation.
New Home Construction Costs Coming Down
The National Association of Homebuilders reported that building materials costs, less energy, are up 8.3% which is a big increase annually. However, the price growth is down a staggering 60% as input costs increased over 16% in 2021.
We should expect input cost growth to slow further in response to slower demand and further reopening of supply chains. This is another positive theme as we move through 2023.
Smaller Fed Rate Hike Still Priced In
One of the headwinds to the economy is the threat of higher short-term rates by the Federal Reserve. The good news there? After four consecutive .75% rate hikes, followed by a .50% hike in December, the financial markets are fully pricing in a smaller .25% hike at next week’s Fed Meeting.
The markets also believe the Fed will raise rates by another .25% in March and then pause to allow all the hikes that date back to last summer to seep into the economy.
This means the Terminal Rate, or the fancy way of saying the peak in the Fed Funds Rate, is going to be in a range of 4.75- 5.00%. From there we will have to continue to watch the standoff between the Fed who says they want to keep rates higher for longer. Additionally, with no rate cuts this year versus the financial markets, which are starting to “price in” as many as two rate cuts later this year.
Bottom line: The economy is showing mixed signals, but the labor market remains strong, and we are nearing the end of Fed rate hikes. So, the plan to land the U.S. economy softly and avoid a deep recession remains very much in play. That is good news for housing and the economy.
Next week is Fed week. As of this moment, the markets fully expect the Fed to raise rates by .25%. Anything other than that would be a surprise and generate a lot of market volatility. The Fed generally looks to avoid sending the market mixed signals but the markets will be on edge.
Change is the only constant in life. After two years of a COVID-fueled buying frenzy that produced stratospheric price spikes across all segments of the market, 2022 brought a bucket of icy lake water on the head. A dramatic reversal of economic conditions fueled by the Ukrainian conflict, historic interest rate hikes, a crypto collapse, and the erosion of equities rippled through Tahoe real estate. For the first time since COVID, we saw a noticeable lack of urgency as buyers were willing to wait on investing in vacation homes. By mid-summer, both supply and days-on-market had distinctly increased. Gone were the days of multiple offers within days of listing homes and the manic-ness we experienced since the pandemic onset. By the third quarter, we saw a palpable calm in luxury real estate sales. In fact, only 11 single-family lakefront homes between Rubicon Bay and Incline Village sold all year, the lowest we have seen since before our reporting began in 2006. Yet, median price has been slow to respond. As a result, in 2022, each micro-region (with the exception of lakefronts due to small sample size), saw median price reach historic highs, while sales volume decreased significantly. The disparity between median price and demand, alongside uncertain market conditions, continues to contribute to buyers willing to remain on standby, waiting for market corrections and for economic indicators to improve confidence.
As sellers reset to the new normal, we expect buyers to start to again pull their paddles from beneath their chairs in 2023. For buyers who have been patiently awaiting value opportunities, 2023 should present well. While the selling environment is not as favorable as it has been over the past few years, sellers can still take advantage of the historic run-up in pricing from COVID. However, it will be imperative that sellers adjust expectations on pricing and time on market. As we close the chapter on the COVID-driven real estate binge, the winds of change will still blow in opportunities around Lake Tahoe.
Points of Interest: January – December 2022
Single family homes sold decreased 19% year over year.
Median price increased 7% year over year and is on a 7-year growth trend.
Sales volume reached a 8-year low. Median price reached an historic high.
210 of 903 homes (23%) sold over $2 million.
Points of Interest: January – December 2022
Single family homes sold decreased 10% year over year
Median price increased 24% year over year and is on a 5-year growth trend.
Sales volume reached a 6-year low. Median price reached an historic high.
In the first three quarters of 2022, each micro-region saw a decrease in the number of single-family homes sold. While some micro-regions have continued to see slow growth in median price, other micro-regions have started to see a decline in pricing.
The combination of the decline in sales volume and the shifting of price indicates that market activity is slowing. The expectation is that the median price will follow but is slower to react, as sellers still aim for the pricing the market waws garnering in the first half of the year.
Increased interest rates may also impact buyer activity. Most significantly, we see a noticeable lack of urgency in stark contrast to the buying frenzy of COVID years, as people continue to watch the market and economic indicators. Buyers who have been sitting on the sidelines may find their opportunity to take advantage of their new leverage.
Tahoe Sierra MLS
Single-family homes in California on Lake Tahoe’s North and West Shores, plus all of Truckee, Northstar, Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows.
Points of Interest
Single-family homes sold decreased 23% year over year.
Median price increased 5% year over year and is on a 7-year growth trend.
Sales volume reached a 6-year low.
170 of 712 homes (24%) sold over $2 million.
North & West Shores
Single-family homes in the Lake Tahoe Basin in California including Tahoe’s North and West Shores, as well as Alpine Meadows and Olympic Valley.
Points of Interest
Single-family homes sold decreased 34% year over year.
Median price decreased 1% year over year.
Sales volume reached a 10-year low.
49 of 209 homes (23%) sold over $2 million.
Incline Village & Crystal Bay
Single-family homes in Incline Village, NV and Crystal Bay, NV.
Points of Interest
Single-family homes sold decreased 38% year over year.
Median price increased 25% year over year and is on a 7-year growth trend.
Sales volume reached a 5-year low.
74 of 115 homes (64%) sold for over $2 million.
Single-family lakefront homes located between Rubicon Bay, CA and Incline Village, NV.
Points of Interest
Single-family homes sold decreased 67% year over year.
Median price decreased 28% year over year.
Sales volume reached a record low (16 years of data).
8 of 8 homes (100%) sold for over $2 million.
Single-family homes in Truckee including Downtown Truckee, Glenshire, Prosser, Tahoe-Donner, Donner Lake, Donner Summit, Sierra Meadows, Old Greenwood, Northstar, Martis Camp & Lahontan.\
Points of Interest
Single-family homes sold decreased by 16% year over year.
Median price increased by 9% year over year and is on a 7-year growth trend.
Median price reached an historic high. Sales volume is the second lowest in 6 years.
Last year at this time, we reported that 2020 was an historic year in Lake Tahoe real estate, showcasing dramatic and unprecedented activity as a result of the pandemic shifting buying behavior and accessibility. In 2020, our Year End Market Report highlighted a massive spike in sales volume alongside a noticeable increase in median price, with both reaching record highs in all microregions (with the exception of lakefronts, where sales volume fell one home below the record). This year, we are seeing median prices once again reaching historic highs in all micro-regions, although by a much larger increase, with the minimum being a 24% increase in median price year over year (on top of the previous record high, that is!). The difference is that in 2021, all micro-regions are showing a decrease in sales volume, by a minimum of 14% and as high as 37% year over year. The decrease in sales volume may be due to limited inventory available, however it also may be indicative of the market reaching our threshold in pricing. On Lake Tahoe’s North & West Shores, median price has been on a 10-year upwards trajectory and this year alone saw a 41% increase in median price. We look forward to 2022 to determine if these trends are sustainable, or if we will begin to see a plateau as the market attempts to correct itself.
2021 Market Recap
Single-family homes sold decreased 25% year over year.
Median price increased 38% year over year and is on a 6-year growth trend.
Median price reached an historic high.
236 of 1,199 homes (20%) sold over $2 million.
North & West Shore Recap
Single-family homes sold decreased 25% year over year.
Median price increased 41% year over year and is on a 10-year growth trend.
Median price reached an historic high.
83 of 423 homes (20%) sold for over $2 million.
Incline Village & Crystal Bay
Single-family homes sold decreased 37% year over year.
Median price increased 37% year over year and is on a 4-year growth trend.
Median price reached an historic high.
118 of 235 homes (50%) sold for over $2 million.
Single-family homes sold decreased 14% year over year.
Median price increased 24% year over year and reached an historic high.
32 of 32 homes (100%) sold for over $2 million.
Single-family homes sold decreased by 25% year over year.
Median price increased by 37% year over year and is on a 6-year growth trend.
Some Incline residents want independence from Washoe County
Since the pandemic, local governments and organizations around the lake and in Truckee have been scrambling to come up with solutions to the housing crisis.
That’s included putting moratoriums on short-term rentals, building multiple workforce housing developments, and even offering thousands of dollars to second homeowners to rent their vacant homes to local workers and families.
Among this expedient change, Crystal Bay and Incline Village have been experiencing some of the worst effects of the housing crisis. Recently, the Village Market of Incline closed its doors after 42 years — in part due to a lack of employees.
Tahoe Luxury Properties real estate agent Amie Quirarte said that the Nevada side of the lake has always been a hot spot due to its low property taxes.
“…the second piece, which is arguably the biggest, is that there were so many changes happening in the political climate across every state and because… the coronavirus has become so highly politicized people left California… and Nevada was a really great state for people to relocate to as far as retirement benefits go and capitalizing on some tax benefits over there if you were switching your residency and Incline saw a huge demand,” Quirarte said. “We just saw a $60 million dollar sale over there – the prices are much higher there than on the California side.”
Due to the lack of affordable housing, much of the local workforce has been pushed out and left many businesses at a loss for employees. Incline Village General Improvement District has also been experiencing an impact to its ability to recruit and retain employees, according to General Manager Indra Winquest – but it does not have as much autonomy over housing as some may think.
“A lot of people think that IVGID has more abilities than it does in regard to how we control (housing) as the local government,” said Tim Callicrate, chairman of the district’s Board of Trustees. “The tough part is we can’t – we have to work with the county. Though we have many, many people here in town who have been really forthright and stepping up and trying to come up with a positive, workable solution. … we’re a general improvement district under the auspices of the county. These are zoning issues that we have no control over … so far we’re doing the best that we can with the limitations that we have as a general improvement district.”
Recently, I was interviewed by the Sierra Sun to give my take on the Truckee-Tahoe real estate market that has changed quite drastically over the past two years. Below is the article that was written by Elizabeth White and published on December 6, 2021.
Predicting the real estate market: As the housing frenzy slows down, the market may never be the same
The Truckee-Tahoe real estate market has changed drastically over the past two years — with buyers making offers far above asking price and inventories at an all time low.
As it stands, a typical home in Truckee is valued at around $1 million, according to Zillow. For long-term local workers, the question remains as to whether there will ever be a place for them in the new market.
Local real estate agents have differing opinions on the matter, as the market can often be unpredictable.
Don Carr, a local broker of 20 years with Carr Long Real Estate, said he has tried many times in his career to predict the future of the market, but has always been surprised. He said with companies becoming more and more open to remote work, he thinks the market will only continue to grow to be more expensive with the higher demand and low supply.
“There is a shortage of inventory right now, which has driven price increases recently,” he said. “That’s also spurring new construction, so people are building on what available lots there are, but there’s not much future supply being released. So it feels to me like supply will always be pretty limited and the ability to build more will be limited, but families will continue to want to be here, so that’s got to cause appreciation over the next five to 10 years.”
Carr believes that as prices increase, it would be better to buy now than to wait around for prices to drop.
“Surely there will be fluctuations, but in the long view, I think it will be more expensive in five to 10 years rather than less,” he said.
Tahoe Sierra MLS president and Tahoe Luxury Properties agent Amie Quirarte said that she has seen a shift in the market for the past couple of months.
“…Things have started to taper off a bit … it seems that since there is some resemblance of normalcy … people’s lives to some degree have gone back to how they were before, as far as the kids being in school or people having to be back in the office and so the ability to spend as much time as you want up here is no longer really an option for everybody,” Quirarte said. “So that’s really shifted and I think that the frenzy has come and gone, so what we’re battling with now is where prices are gonna go.”
Quirarte said that in her experience the market has always been through its highs and lows, but she does not believe that there will be a crash or any dramatic dips in the market anytime soon. Her prediction is that in the next year the market will deescalate and become less competitive than it has been in the past two years.
“…I do think that we will see a decrease in property prices, which is a good thing because what was happening was not sustainable.” Quirarte said.
Both Carr and Quirarte agree that the Caldor Fire had an impact on the market, particularly during the peak smoke season. With insurance companies charging more and the risk of home damage, this could potentially cause a downtrend in the long term – although Carr believes that some have short memories and will continue to buy despite the risks and cost involved.
For those who work locally with lower incomes and are looking to purchase a home for the long term, Quirarte said that it could be advantageous to wait and ride out the winter season because there could be a potential drop in the market.
“Historically, Tahoe has been a very seasonal market, one in which there’s a lot less demand once the snow starts to fly for certain properties — resort properties excluded … It’s a good time to try to jump in mid-winter and see what you can find,” she said. “That being said, the second piece of that equation is that the interest rate is historically low. So it would really be worth weighing out how much you would save based on an increase in an interest rate that may or may not happen in the next couple of months.”