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Housing sentiment surges in March, and sellers are the most optimistic

Lower mortgage rates are likely behind a huge surge in housing sentiment, which could help rev up what started as a sluggish spring season.

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A monthly survey from Fannie Mae showed that, in March, sentiment jumped to the highest level since June 2018, which was just below the record high.

More consumers think it is now a good time to both buy and sell a home, and more expect interest rates to fall in the next year. Specifically, the net share of those who say it is a good time to buy increased 7 percentage points to 22%, although this is 10 percentage points lower than a year ago. The share of those who say now is a good time to sell a home increased 13 percentage points to 43%, up 4 percentage points from a year ago.

Continuing a five-month trend, the share of consumers who believe mortgage rates will go down increased 7 percentage points, as rates dropped sharply in March.

“The results further corroborate the positive effect of falling mortgage rates on affordability, which we expect will help support a rebound in home sales,” said Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist. “Meanwhile, job confidence – little changed from last month’s survey high – also continues to support housing sentiment, while income growth perceptions firmed from both prior month and year-ago levels, potentially supporting an uptick in housing demand.”

The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage jumped over 5% at the start of November, after moving slowly higher last summer. It then began falling again in December but took a deep dive in the middle of March. It has moved slightly higher since then but is still below where it was at this time a year ago.

Affordability may be improving slightly with lower rates, but more consumers in March expected home prices to rise, compared with February. That component is down slightly from a year ago, when home prices were still heating up quickly.

While prices are still up annually, the gains have been shrinking since last summer, when mortgage rates began to rise. Lower rates today could help reignite the heat under prices.

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