While high mortgage rates are keeping everyday working Americans out of the housing market, wealthy buyers with the means to buy multi-million dollar homes in cash are doing just fine.
In fact, luxury home prices, sales and inventory are all outpacing the regular real estate market, a reversal from last year when high-end buyers pulled back.
That’s according to a new report from Redfin, which shows the median price of luxury U.S. homes rose 9% year over year to $1.1 million in the third quarter, while the median price of non-luxury homes climbed only 3.3% to $340,000. Both hit their highest level of any third quarter on record.
The Redfin analysis defines luxury homes as those estimated to be in the top 5% of their respective metro area based on market value, and non-luxury homes were defined as those estimated to be in the 35th to 65th percentile based on market value.
The luxury housing market’s resilience in today’s chilled real estate environment is likely due to wealthy home buyers’ ability to buy with cash and avoid today’s 7% to 8% interest rates.
Almost 43% of luxury homes that sold in the third quarter were purchased in cash, up from nearly 35% a year earlier, according to Redfin. Contrast that with just 28% of all-cash purchases of non-luxury homes, which remains essentially unchanged from the third quarter of 2022.
“Wealthy home buyers have more tools to weather the storm of high mortgage rates,” said Jason Aleem, senior vice president of real estate operations for Redfin. “Many of them can afford to pay in cash, meaning they’re escaping high mortgage rates altogether.”
Aleem said other buyers are choosing to take on a higher rate and refinance down the road — “an expensive option that isn’t feasible for a lot of lower-income consumers.”
“Affluent Americans are still spending big, in large part because of pandemic savings and resilient housing and stock values,” he added.
The trend, however, may not last, according to Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather.
“While many luxury buyers have the resources to forge ahead even when mortgage rates are elevated, stubbornly high rates and home prices will likely push some affluent house hunters to the sidelines in the coming months,” he said. “High costs, along with the uptick in the number of high-end homes for sale, could cause luxury price growth to cool.”
For now, though, luxury inventory is holding up well compared to other segments of the housing market. The total supply of luxury homes for sale grew almost 3% from a year earlier compared with a record 20.8% decline in the supply of non luxury homes, Redfin reported. New luxury listings rose 0.3% while new non-luxury listings fell 22%
Luxury home sales are sluggish compared to last year, but they’re not as down compared to other homes. Luxury sales dropped 10.6% year over year compared to a 17% drop in non-luxury sales, according to Redfin.
Where luxury home sales jumped the most
In Tampa, Florida — home to many cash buyers — luxury home sales surged by almost 36% year over year, according to Redfin, the biggest increase in the country. Luxury new listings also rose almost 14% year over year in the third quarter, the biggest increase in every metro other than New York.
Next came Las Vegas (33.4%), Austin, Texas (14.5%), Sacramento, California, (10.1%) and San Francisco (9.6%).
“It’s an opportune time to be a cash buyer, and there are a lot of cash buyers in Florida,” said Eric Auciello, Redfin Tampa sales manager. “We’re still seeing many affluent house hunters move in from the Northeast and West Coast because they want lower taxes, different politics and/or to be closer to family. Tampa also has a ton of new construction, a lot of which is high-end condos.”