Yun points also to tighter inventories (meaning a less-than adequate number of homes for sale) and "stringent" mortgage lending standards as big reasons the housing market should see slower growth (but not a decline) next year.
Higher interest rates could already be threatening home sales leading into 2014, as they could dilute interest among homebuyers. Yun is also wary of higher fees and tougher regulation.
Here is what Yun sees in the near future:
- Home sales will nearly match 2013 levels, at 5.1 million existing homes sold. That means zero growth, basically, compared with the 10% growth seen this year.
- Home prices will rise by 6%, compared with a 12% rise last year.
- Mortgage rates, now at 4.16%, will climb to 5.4% within the next dozen month.
- New home sales will rise from 429,000 this year to 508,000.
- The inflation rate will rise 2.7%, and could reach up to 6% in 2015.
That's a pretty conservative outlook coming from an economist who usually casts a brighter glow on the U.S. real estate market.But at least the housing sector isn't falling into decline, and if the economy continues to improve, Americans may well shrug off higher rates and tighter inventories and dive into the market next year anyway. After all, families still have babies, employees still get promoted and transferred and older Americans still want to buy those homes near palm trees and golf courses. In a tough year, that may be enough to keep the U.S. real estate market in "plus" territory -- but not by much, if Yun has his numbers right.