Housing Market Trends: Are They Helping or Hurting the Economy?

okers’ fees. In the fourth quarter of 2023, housing accounted for $4.4 trillion of U.S. GDP on a seasonally adjusted annual basis or 15.9% (12.0% for housing services and 3.9% for fixed residential investment).6

New home construction stimulates local economies by creating higher-wage jobs and boosting property tax receipts. Nationally (and locally), it benefits other types of businesses as well, by spurring production and hiring in industries that provide raw materials like lumber or that manufacture or sell building tools, equipment, and home components such as windows, cabinets, appliances, and flooring. That’s why the Census Bureau’s report on housing starts, which were up 7.6% from the previous year’s level in December 2023, is considered a leading economic indicator. 7

Consumers are the key

The health of the housing market can also affect economic activity in other industries indirectly. For example, the “wealth effect” refers to how shifts in home prices, up or down, can influence consumer finances, confidence, and behavior. When home values and equity are rising, consumers who own homes tend to feel wealthier and may be more comfortable spending their money.

The “transaction effect” describes the increase in consumer spending that typically occurs when people move into new homes, which tends to generate demand for goods and services such as appliances, furniture, electronics, home improvement, and landscaping. On the other hand, extremely low affordability might influence younger consumers in a different way. When buying a home seems unattainable, it may cause them to give up on saving for that goal and shift to spending on other things.

Home Building Stages a Recovery

In Q3 2023, fixed residential investment added to U.S. GDP for the first time since Q1 2021. But in Q4, an increase in new residential structures was mostly offset by a decrease in broker’s fees.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2024

Given housing’s importance to the economy, there is some concern that a prolonged period of high rates could continue to constrain home building and sales, cause home prices to fall, and damage consumer confidence. When the Federal Reserve begins to cut interest rates, mortgages should gradually follow suit, but that’s not likely to happen until GDP growth slows and inflation is no longer seen as the larger threat.

1, 4) National Association of Realtors, 2024; 2) Freddie Mac, 2023; 3) National Association of Realtors via Haver Analytics, 2023; 5, 7) U.S. Census Bureau, 2024; 6) U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2024


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