Real estate agents are optimistic their client pipelines will improve from last year’s lows — but it may take longer than hoped, according to shifting sentiments in the latest Inman Intel Index.

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Real estate agents tempered their optimistic outlook in February as a much-hoped-for rate cut was pushed further out into the future, according to an Intel survey.

Agent respondents to the Inman Intel Index real estate survey described a market in which buyer pipelines increasingly fell short of expectations as mortgage rates crept upward in the early weeks of the new year. 

The survey — which received 811 responses from real estate agents, brokerage leaders, proptech professionals and mortgage lenders — tracks evolving real estate industry sentiment on several key business fronts.

And while agents remained generally upbeat about the year ahead compared to the previous 12 months, the survey picked up signs that many real estate professionals may be settling in for a longer road to recovery.

Read their appraisal of the market in the report below.

Pipeline woes

When the Intel Index previously ran in late January, there was an unmistakable feeling that the market was evening out, and had perhaps already hit bottom.

Buyer and seller pipelines appeared to be stabilizing, with the largest share of agents in January reporting that their pipelines remained “about the same” year over year.

By late February, fewer agents were on the fence.

  • The share of agents who reported their buyer pipelines were unchanged from last year dipped from 39 percent in January to 31 percent in February.
  • Agents who reported substantial annual declines in their buyer pipelines were the fastest-growing group, rising from 17 percent in January to 23 percent in February.

In other words, agents across the board reported that buyer conditions are worsening — a disappointment for many real estate professionals, considering mortgage rates are down from their October peak and were expected to lure more buyers off the sidelines. 

On the listing side, agents reported gaining a similar degree of directional clarity — but their experience was increasingly split between good and bad outcomes.

  • The share of agents who reported their listing pipelines were unchanged from last year dipped from 35 percent in January to 26 percent in February. But this group went in two directions:
  • Agents reporting moderate growth in their listing pipelines year-over-year rose from 20 percent in January to 24 percent in February. 
  • Agents who reported substantial annual declines in their listing pipeline also increased, from 16 percent in January to 20 percent in February.

While the listing picture is becoming clearer, some agents see an improvement, while others report still-deteriorating conditions.

A tempered outlook

To be clear, the agents who responded to the Intel Index in February remained generally optimistic about the housing market’s direction in the year ahead.

Only 19 percent of agents in late February expected their listing pipelines to worsen over the next 12 months, while 15 percent expected their future buyer pipelines to shorten.

Still, those were higher measures of pessimism than the Intel Index recorded in January.

  • Agents who said they believe their buyer pipelines will improve over the next 12 months dropped from 49 percent in January to 44 percent in February.
  • The share of agents who reported similar optimism in their listing pipelines declined almost identically over the same period, from 49 percent in January to 45 percent in February.

Meanwhile, another noteworthy split emerged between the buyer and seller sides.

While still a relatively rare point of view, listing-related pessimism has nonetheless emerged as the fastest-growing sentiment among agents. 

  • The share of agents who expect a lighter listing pipeline in the year to come rose from 13 percent in January to 19 percent in February.
  • This shift came mostly at the expense of the idea that listing pipelines would see either moderate growth or roughly no change over the next 12 months.

On the buyer side, agents also trended away from their once-optimistic outlook. But they were less confident that the buyer situation would worsen than that conditions would erode on the seller side.

  • The share of agents who expect a lighter buyer pipeline over the next 12 months rose from 13 percent in January to 15 percent in February.
  • Of the former optimists, a larger group opted for the prediction that their buyer pipelines would look “about the same” a year from now. This share grew from 38 percent in January to 41 percent in February.

The Intel Index paints a constantly evolving picture of industry sentiment, and these numbers are likely to shift in unexpected ways as the market moves deeper into the spring.

But for now, some of the optimism at the outset of 2024 may be weakening. It’s a theme Intel will explore in the month ahead — exploring its effect on brokerage operations, proptech companies and the lending sector.

Follow along as Intel continues to track the pulse of real estate.

Methodology notes: This month’s Inman Intel Index survey was conducted Feb. 20-March 3, 2024. The entire Inman reader community was invited to participate, and Intel received 811 responses. Respondents for this survey were directed to the SurveyMonkey platform, where they self-identified their profiles within the residential real estate market. Respondents were limited to one response per device, but there was no limitation to IP addresses. Once a profile (residential real estate agent, mortgage broker/banker, corporate executive/investor/proptech, or other) was selected, respondents answered a unique set of questions for that specific profile. Because the survey did not request demographic information for age, gender or geography, there was no data weighting. This survey will be conducted monthly, with both recurring and unique questions for each profile type.

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