The housing market’s pivotal spring selling season is coming to an end—not with a bang, but with a whimper 

This year’s spring selling season wasn’t a typical one, and while it seems to be better than last year, there was an air of melancholy surrounding it. 

As the season winds down, mortgage applications, pending home sales, existing home sales, and listings for the last few months have all generally reflected that sentiment. 

It’s another reminder that buying and selling homes hasn’t been the same since the pandemic. It’s hard to sell your home if your mortgage rate is much lower than the current rate. And it’s hard to buy when the salary needed for a starter home has almost doubled and the cost of owning a home is the highest on record. 

Mortgage applications for home purchases dropped 3.3% in May from the previous month, which saw a 2.3% dip, according to Capital Economics, a research firm. The second consecutive monthly fall showed March’s uptick was short-lived. Meanwhile, May applications are only 6.5% higher than they were in October last year, when they hit a 28-year low. If you remember, mortgage rates hit a more than two-decade high of just above 8% last October. They’ve come down to the 7% range, or 6.99% according to Freddie Mac’s weekly reading; daily mortgage rates are higher. 

“The fall in May happened despite mortgage rates easing to 7.07% last month, from 7.17%, supporting our view that mortgage demand and sales activity won’t recover until rates fall meaningfully below 7%,” Capital Economics’ economist Thomas Ryan wrote last week, suggesting June might not be any better. “We only expect that to happen later in the year.”

Refinancing activity is near all-time lows, too, because the average rate of all outstanding mortgages is about 4% since so many people either purchased during the pandemic, when mortgage rates were historically low, or refinanced.’s recently released monthly housing analysis found there were more homes for sale on a typical day in May compared with the same time last year, but there’s still fewer homes for sale than what was typical from 2017 to 2019; it was a similar story in April and March.

Separate data shows pending home sales plummeted 7.7% in April on a monthly basis and 7.4% on an annual basis; contract signings fell in all regions compared to the month before and a year earlier. And existing home sales dropped 1.9% in April month-over-month and year-over-year. In March, existing home sales fell 4.3% on a monthly basis and 3.7% on an annual basis. All the while, home prices continued to rise; they hit their ninth all-time high within the past year in March. 

Combining the latest mortgage applications data with the weak April pending home sales number puts existing home sales in May on course to dip below an annualized rate of 4 million, well below the average from the past 10 years of around 5.2 million, Ryan wrote, and his team isn’t seeing a recovery until the end of next year, at which point it’ll be a muted one.

For activity to really rise, mortgage rates have to fall, and the only hope for mortgage rates is interest rate cuts from the Federal Reserve. 

“Home sales are stuck because interest rates have not made any major moves,” National Association of Realtors’ chief economist Lawrence Yun said, alongside a prior existing home sales release.

The consumer price index, an inflation measure, for May is scheduled to be released Wednesday morning, ahead of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting. It seems as though the Fed will leave rates unchanged. So for now, it’s hard to imagine mortgage rates falling meaningfully and actually staying there, rather than momentary dips or fluctuations. 

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