March 2024 MBS Highway Housing Index

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John Smith
January 1, 2023
5 min read

The strong, upward trajectory the MBS Highway National Housing Index experienced over the prior three months paused in March 2024, as mortgage rates reversed course and moved back above 7%. There was significant regional variation, however, with the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions getting even hotter, while the Southeast and Southwest regions lagged.

National Data

The MBS Highway National Housing Index increased slightly to 56 in March 2024, up from 55 in February 2024. This marked the fourth straight month of improvement. In March 2023, the index stood at 42.

The rapid increases seen for both the Buyer Activity and Price Direction sub-indexes since November 2023 slowed in March 2024, as average 30-year mortgage rates moved above 7% in mid-February and remained there during our early March survey period.

The Buyer Activity sub-index climbed one point to 50 in March 2024, right at the breakeven point between index expansion/contraction. In March 2023, this sub-index was at 45. The Price Direction sub-index, meanwhile, rose 2 points to 62 in March 2024. In March 2023, this sub-index was at 39.

The relatively flat overall performance in March 2024 masked significant regional variation, with large increases in several regions counterbalanced by declines in others. More on this below.

Regional Data

The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic continue to be the hottest regions, with strong buyer demand overwhelming supply and sending prices higher. The previously lagging Northwest region logged the biggest improvement, with 10 point increases in both its Buyer Activity (43 → 53) and Price Direction (53 → 63) sub-indexes.

In contrast, the Southeast and Southwest regions have seen both their Buyer Activity and Price Direction sub-indexes plateau near or below the 50 breakeven level. Some cities in these regions have seen inventory levels climb back to near pre-pandemic levels, limiting upward price momentum.

That said, in most regions, home price momentum remains significantly stronger than it was this time last year. In March 2023, the West region’s Price Direction sub-index was at 30. It’s now at 70. In March 2023, the Northwest region’s Price Direction sub-index was at 27. It’s now at 63.

“We expected something of a pause in our March 2024 survey, as buyers and sellers have demonstrated a heightened sensitivity to mortgage rate movements. The good news is that mortgage rates have improved in early March. Plus, inflation continues to trend down, and the unemployment rate ticked up recently, setting the stage for Fed rate cuts in the coming months,” said Barry Habib, MBS Highway’s Founder and CEO.

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