What Happens to House Prices in a Recession?

May 18, 2020
What Happens to House Prices in a Recession?

When the economy starts to stall, major changes take place. Unemployment rises. People halt all nonessential purchases. Investors get nervous and the stock market drops. In many places, home values are negatively impacted.

Recessions are scary — especially for homeowners who are considering selling. Because there is no clear beginning or end to a recession, it's hard to know how it will affect your plans to sell. Sometimes, even speculation about future recessions is enough to present a challenge.

During a recession, people scale back their spending, especially on bigger purchases like automobiles and homes, and businesses are often forced to lay off workers as a result.

As difficult as they are, recessions are not as bad as depressions. The Great Depression of 1929 lasted nearly a decade until the financial position of the country and its residents improved. 

Since then, there have been nearly a dozen recessions lasting around a year or two each. The last recession, from 2007 to 2009, was sparked by the U.S. housing market crash. Homeowners saw their home values decline dramatically during that period. To determine our current risk levels and plan accordingly, we first need to understand the factors that cause recessions. Let's take a closer look:

Do house prices fall in a recession?

Economists consider many different things to determine if a downturn in the economy is actually the start of the recession. Along with analyzing a country’s GDP, interest rates, and unemployment numbers, they also consider a less quantifiable indicator called the "confidence level."

The confidence level, which is measured through surveys of the general public, helps officials understand how people are feeling about the market. If their confidence that things will improve is low, they are more likely to hesitate when considering big purchases. 

When there are fewer people in the market looking for homes, the demand drops. If there is no change in the supply of homes on the market, homes are worth less until demand grows or fewer people try to sell. 

What About the Local Economy?

It's possible that your state, city, or neighborhood has been impacted differently by the current economic situation than other areas. Housing prices can vary dramatically, depending on the location. If your home has attractive features like a great view, easy access to highways, or plenty of amenities, its value might not drop at all.

The Great Recession of the mid-2000s impacted the entire nation because it was caused by systematic issues within the lending industry. Lenders were enabling buyers to purchase homes that they could not truly afford, inflating values as the demand for homes rose. When the crash came, it hit the United States very hard. Thankfully, there are now laws in place to protect home buyers from these practices. 

Is the housing market going to crash in 2020?

Here's the good news: Home appraisers aren't focused on what could happen a week, a month, or even a year in the future. They're only interested in the value of your home on the day they visit it. Their research is designed only to support their findings for a home value appraisal, not to predict the impacts of a recession.

Of course, part of what appraisers consider is the prices at which other, comparable homes in your community have recently sold. If you are ahead of the curve and put your home on the market before others in your area, your home value will not change much. However, if others around you are struggling to sell, you may find that your appraisal is lower than expected.

Is Now the Time to Sell?

No real estate agent, mortgage broker, or other housing market professional knows what the next recession will look like in terms of its impact on housing values. Sometimes, the answer has to do with the type of home you own. Because home construction has slowed over the last few years, moderately priced homes may still be in demand. 

If real estate professionals don't know, that means homeowners probably don't either. Sometimes, unforeseen bills, a new job, a divorce, or difficult family circumstances will require that you sell, regardless of the economic forecast. 

If you decide to sell your home during a recession, it will likely take more time for the sale to go through. If you list at a pre-recession price, you won’t have many interested buyers. You may need to reduce your asking price or add other incentives, such as paying for closing costs or including some furniture, into the deal. 

It's also important to have your home completely ready for an interested buyer to move in. That means fixing any broken systems and cleaning both the inside and outside thoroughly. You also must pack up your possessions so that any potential prospects can imagine themselves living in your space. 

If this work feels overwhelming, consider the alternative solutions that let you access your equity while staying in your home as long as you'd like. Recessions can be a stressful time, but understanding how the economy can impact your home value can help you to make a smart decision for your financial future.

How Can You Avoid Economic Impacts?

The financial hardship caused by recessions often prompts homeowners to tap into the cash equity that is locked up in their homes. This money can be used to cover medical bills, college tuition, or even day-to-day expenses. However, the change in housing values may cause you to reconsider a sale.

Many homeowners will instead look toward alternative programs to tap into their investments without having to sell in the middle of a recession. EasyKnock's Sell & Stay and MoveAbility programs allow homeowners to benefit from their investments in a fair, fast way without having to struggle with the challenges of selling a home during a recession.