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Price Freeze at the Top Warms Mid-tier Buyers


This could be the year that the housing economy works for both first-time buyers and the millions of families that want to move up to a new home.

Sustained price growth in entry level starter homes is good news for first-time homebuyers. Just as encouraging, the number of potential move-up buyers, who were once locked into underwater mortgages, has been steadily decreasing    Buyers finally get the right combination of good markets to sell their existing homes and buy a new one to meet their needs.

In its February market report, Clear Capital finds that move up buyers may also benefit from a slowdown price increases among higher priced homes.  The top tier’s quarterly growth rate fell to 0.3% in the fourth quarter, where it had been holding steady at around 1% through the first three quarters of 2014. Year-over-year, this tier experienced the lowest price growth rate of 3.6% among the three national tiers.

Higher prices for lower tier homes and a price freeze at the top could create a domino effect and a catalyst for balanced demand across all sectors of the market.   Opportunities to move up instill confidence in mid-tier homeowners, motivating them to move-up to the top tier. In turn, this opens up more opportunity for low tier homeowners to move-up to the mid-tier. Creating new opportunity in the low tier could entice potential first-time homebuyers to enter the market, says Clear Capital Allex Villacorta.

“We continue to observe the growing price performance gap between the top and bottom segments of the market,” says Dr. Villacorta, vice president of research and analytics at Clear Capital. “The rate of appreciation for top tier homes is stalling, which is a more direct reflection of waning fair market demand.  While this is a concerning development, there is a silver lining. The moderating upper tier may give traditional buyers a moment to catch their breath, and entice move-up buyers to enter this segment of the market. The ripple effect of opening up inventory all the way down the price spectrum could provide opportunity and motivation across all segments, including first-time buyers, to enter the marketplace. The hope is that strength in the low and mid tiers help restore confidence in a stable housing market, and traditional homebuyers re-engage. The next phase of the housing recovery is dependent on healthy demand from this segment.”

At its current pace, continued moderation in the top tier could push quarterly price growth into negative territory in 2015. January data also reveals the low tier holding on to double digit gains year-over-year at 10.2% and healthy quarter-over-quarter gains of 1.5%, Clear Capital says.

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