Zillow's predictions in 2022 show house price surge of 25%, how accurate are there predictions?

March 24, 2022

 

According to Zillow, house prices will continue to skyrocket in 2022 with hot markets posting gains of 25% plus.  What factors are driving these predictions?  How accurate are Zillow's 2022 predictions for appreciation?  How does Zillow’s estimates compare with the National Association of Realtors?

What does Zillow say about appreciation in 2022?

Growth in home values will exceed 14% nationally through November, the real estate app predicted in an analysis of the “hottest housing markets” released Tuesday with "hot markets" increasing at 25%+ Economists at Zillow anticipate price appreciation and high sales volume to continue in 2022, especially as millennials look to buy their first homes and baby boomers eye retirement destinations.

How accurate is this prediction from Zillow?

I’m a bit skeptical as Zillow was spending millions buying houses, overpaying and ultimately lost a ton of money as they were way too optimistic on their values.  Zillow abruptly shut down Zillow offers to stop the bleeding/losses.  Remember Zillow makes its money primarily from realtors buying leads from them/advertising.  It would not be in Zillow’s best interest to predict a crash as this would impact their bottom line.  With that said, I think Zillow is a bit optimistic on their predictions.

What are other experts saying about appreciation in 2022?

The National Association of Realtors in their 2022 housing market report predicted a 2.9% rate of appreciation nationally with “hot markets” closer to 7-10%.  I think this is a bit more reasonable estimate than what Zillow is predicting for three reasons:

  1. Interest rates will rise: I think Zillow's predictions in 2022 and others within the real estate market are woefully underpricing the risk of a rapid rise in rates to the real estate market. Interest rates will likely end 1% higher than they are today; this would represent almost a 30% increase in payments from where rates are today.  The sharp rise in payments will price buyers out of the market.  Furthermore, existing homeowners will be even less likely to “trade up” as they don’t want to give up their low interest rates.
  2. Government stimulus will end: Allot of what is propelling todays market is the huge amount of government stimulus whether it is pausing any payments on student loans to physical payments from the government. All this will end in 2022 which will slow the economy and in turn real estate.
  3. Back to the office actually happens: Every company will not be remote forever.  Many are predicting that Covid becomes endemic in 2022 which will lead to more familiar patterns of work and school which will alter the dynamics of where people work and play

Summary

I’m skeptical of Zillow’s predictions as you should be.  If Zillow were so confident that prices would continue to increase at the torrid pace, then why would they abruptly quit Zillow offers and firesale the houses they have bought through wholesalers?  Let’s take Denver for example.  Denver was one of Zillows biggest markets for instant offers, assuming their predictions are correct Denver should rise somewhere between 15-20%.  Instead of selling all the houses via a firesale, why would Zillow not wait 6 months and sell each one at a substantial profit (20% plus from where they bought the houses.  Zillow, has a strong balance sheet with plenty of cash so liquidity was not an issue.  Unfortunately, Zillow is not putting its money where its mouth is and their predictions are extremely optimistic.  Their motivation for the optimism is to drive further revenue growth.  I would not take Zillow’s estimates to the bank and neither should you.

Written by Glen Weinberg, COO/ VP Fairview Commercial Lending.

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