Still, the market is on better footing than it had been a year ago, when economic uncertainty caused by global trade tensions, stock exchange volatility and a partial government shutdown, along with rising mortgage rates and home prices, put a damper on sales. Mortgage rates, which seemed poised to surpass 5 percent, a level they hadn’t reached since 2011, retreated in 2019. The average rate of the most popular mortgage, the 30-year fixed, has remained below 4 percent for the past 32 weeks, according to Freddie Mac data. At the start of 2000, it was 8.5 percent.

In their forecasts for 2020, most land experts anticipate the housing market moving sideways instead of up or down.

“Housing appears poised to require a number one role in real GDP growth over the forecast horizon for the primary time in years, further bolstering our modest-but-solid growth forecasts through 2021,” said Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist. “In our view, residential fixed investment is probably going to profit from ongoing strength within the labor markets and consumer spending, additionally to the low rate of interest environment. Risks to growth have lessened lately , as a ’Phase One’ U.S.-China trade deal appears to be in situ and global growth seems likely to reverse course and accelerate in 2020.”

National Association of Realtors

New-home sales are expected to rise to 750,000, an 11 percent increase that puts them at a 13-year high. Existing-home sales will continue to be held down by lack of supply, rising modestly to 5.6 million, a 4 percent increase. The national median sale price of an existing home is expected to grow to $270,400, an increase of 4.3 percent from 2019.

“In 2020, more home-building activity and consequent growth in supply should tame down home price gains,” said Lawrence Yun, the NAR’s chief economist. “That’s a healthy development for potential home buyers. Southern cities should once more do better than most other markets.”

The NAR expects 10 markets to have home price appreciation that outpaces the rest of the country over the next three to five years: Ogden, Utah; Las Vegas; Fort Collins, Colo.; Colorado Springs; Dallas/Fort Worth; Columbus, Ohio; Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, N.C.; Charlotte; Charleston, S.C.; and Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla.

The 30-year fixed-mortgage rate will remain below 4 percent in the coming year, moving to 3.8 percent by the end of 2020.

“Interest rates will remain low, as long as we have government backing of mortgage-backed securities,” Yun said. “But mortgage rates may increase as inflation kicks in and economic activity markedly picks up.”

The scarcity of homes on the market will drive down existing-home sales by 1.8 percent to 5.23 million.

Home prices nationally will flatten, increasing 0.8 percent. Prices are likely to decline in Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, Miami and San Francisco. In the D.C. metro area, sales are going to be 1.5 percent lower with prices 2.6 percent higher.

“Real estate fundamentals remain entangled during a lattice of continuous demand, tight supply and disciplined financial underwriting,” said George Ratiu, senior economist at “Accordingly, 2020 will convince be the foremost challenging year for buyers, not due to what they will afford but rather what they will find.”

Top markets in 2020 include Boise, Idaho; McAllen, Tex.; Tucson; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Columbia, S.C.; Rochester, N.Y.; Colorado Springs; Winston-Salem, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.; and Memphis.

Mortgage rates will average 3.85 percent in 2020 and will end the year around 3.88 percent.


Competition will increase with 1 out of 4 offers facing a bidding war. Increased competition will push price growth 6 percent higher in the first half of the year, but as the year goes on, a more balanced supply and demand will allow price growth to moderate at 3 percent.

Mortgage rates will hover around 3.8 percent and not fall lower than 3.5 percent, even if the economy weakens. If the economy strengthens, rates aren’t likely to go above 4.1 percent.

Hispanic homeowners will gain more wealth from home equity than white Americans. The majority of new homeowners are Hispanic, and home values in Hispanic neighborhoods are increasing faster than in white neighborhoods.

Charleston and Charlotte will lead the state in home price growth.


The median U.S. home value is expected to end the year up 2.8 percent from the end of 2019. That’s lower than last year’s expected growth of 3.6 percent.

Home sales will continue to climb, albeit slowly.

“We expect a slower market than we’ve become familiar with the previous couple of years,” said Skylar Olsen, Zillow’s director of economic research. “But don’t mistake this for a buyer-friendly environment. Consumers will still absorb available inventory, and therefore the market will remain competitive in much of the country.”

Mortgage rates are expected to remain near relatively low levels in 2020.

“Softening GDP growth and investment, continued global weakness due in part to the U.S.-China trade conflict, and below-target inflation will continue to hold rates in check,” Olsen said.

National Association of Home Builders

Builder confidence is higher than it has been in two decades, according to the trade association that measures industry sentiment. The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, a monthly survey that gauges builder perceptions of single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months, clocked in at 76 in December, after starting 2019 at 58. It’s at its highest level since June 1999. At its lowest point during the Great Recession, the index plummeted to 8.

“Low resale inventory and generally healthy economic conditions — including the longest economic expansion in American history — have lifted builder sentiment,” wrote NAHB chief economist Robert Dietz in “Eye on Housing,” the organization’s blog.

The NAHB expects new-home sales to be around 708,000, a 2.5 percent gain over 2019. Single-family construction, which includes for-sale housing, custom builds and built-for-rent, will increase 4 percent from 2019 to around 920,000 units. That’s still well below the average number of starts before the housing crash.