2020 Crystal Ball Award-Winners

Every quarter, more than 100 members of an expert panel managed by Pulsenomics participate in the Zillow Home Price Expectations Survey to predict the 5-year future path of U.S. home prices and weigh-in on topical concerns pertinent to residential real estate and mortgage markets. In every year since the survey’s 2010 inception, Pulsenomics has recognized the most accurate forecasters with one of its coveted Crystal Ball Awards.

A black and white photo of the sky.
A few of the 2020 Pulsenomics CBA Winners

Compounding Interest

Over the years, the audience for this survey–housing policymakers, risk managers, real estate and mortgage industry stakeholders, professional and academic economists—has continued to grow. Here’s why:

The survey response data are unique and compiled from a large, diverse panel of subject matter experts; Zillow and Pulsenomics publicly announce and freely distribute survey results every quarter.

  • The survey response data set includes more than 100 authoritative, independent perspectives on the future path of U.S. home prices.
  • Panelists share their year-by-year home price expectations over a five-year horizon.
  • Experts supplement their home value forecasts with their opinions on topical issues pertinent to the U.S. housing and mortgage markets.
  • The survey data are updated and published in a standard format every quarter, and easily accessible online via Zillow and Pulsenomics.
  • More than a decade of historical expectations survey data and performance reports.

Particularly during times of elevated market volatility, multi-year forecasts and objective viewpoints compiled from numerous experts deliver valuable independent perspectives that can help inform business plans and risk management policies. 

  • The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on housing fundamentals will likely play out over several years and compound the lingering volatility left in the long wake of market dislocations caused by the historic U.S. housing bust.

The number of U.S. housing market stakeholders is enormous; individual stakes are typically very large and have practical, economic, and emotional dimensions.

  • The aggregate capital value of U.S. housing is approximately $35 trillion. Residential real estate is by far the largest asset for most homeowners; prevailing home equity levels and expected home value changes can have a significant impact on consumer spending behavior.
  • For many homeowners, their house is not only a shelter and store of wealth, but a source of family esteem and civic pride. For millions of renters, attaining homeowner status remains a hallmark of achieving “The American Dreamâ€.

Housing is a key driver of the U.S. economy, and millions of private-sector jobs are directly or indirectly tied to the U.S. housing market throughout the construction, manufacturing, retail trade, financial and other service industries.

  • Housing contributes significantly to U.S. GDP through private residential investment (i.e., construction of single-family and multifamily structures, manufactured home production, residential remodeling, real estate broker fees) and consumption spending on housing services (i.e., gross rents and utilities paid by renter households, and homeowners’ imputed rents and utility payments).

Governments and private financial institutions around the world are exposed to U.S. home price risk via their collective multitrillion-dollar exposure to mortgage and home equity securities.

  • The U.S. federal government is the single largest stakeholder in the housing market, and its stake has grown significantly since the housing bust and financial crisis more than a decade ago.
  • In light of the foregoing, U.S. taxpayers–regardless of their housing tenure and location–have an indirect but tangible stake in the future health of housing markets across the U.S.


Covid Cloudiness

The sudden onset and profound impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic coupled with unprecedented government policy responses made market forecasting especially challenging in 2020.

During the first half of the year, virus contagion, widespread business closures, and eye-popping unemployment surges were widely expected to force home values lower. Instead, the combination of massive government aid programs, accelerated development of FDA-approved vaccines, record-low mortgage rates, surging demand for less crowded living spaces, and rapid, widespread acceptance of WFH (working from home) created an extraordinary shift in housing preferences.

Collectively, the latter forces stoked demand for single-family homes in the face of stubbornly constrained supply. The result: U.S. home values soared more than eight percent during the calendar year. Although panelists adjusted upward their outlook for 2020 as the year progressed, low first-half expectations left all panelists well short of the full-year benchmark.     

Here’s a sampling of first-place performances that earned 2020 Pulsenomics CBA honors:

PanelistExpectations MadeHorizonExpected Change*Actual Change**
  Ingo Winzer
(Local Market Monitor)  
2016  5 years
(2016 thru 2020)
  31.7%  34.2%
  Raymond Hodgdon
(Enlightened Economics)  
2017  4 years
(2017 thru 2020)
  26.0%  26.7%
  Stacy Sirmans
(FSU Real Estate Ed. & Research Center)  
2018  3 years
(2018 thru 2020)
  18.3%  18.9%
Stacy Sirmans
(FSU Real Estate Ed. & Research Center)
20192 years
(2019 thru 2020)
Jim Kleckley
(East Carolina University)
20201 year
* Mean of panelist’s four quarterly survey responses. ** Zillow U.S. Home Value Index

Pulsenomics tracks and ranks panelists in 11 distinct performance categories. Here are a few of the most consistent performers who earned 2020 CBA honors:

PanelistNumber Top 10 Rankings
  Mike Englund  (Action Economics)  11
  Jim Kleckley  (East Carolina University)  10
  Mark Fleming  (First American)  9

The complete list of CBA Winners is available here.