Stock market swoon stalls luxury home sales

Rampant volatility in the U.S. stock market is showing up in the high-end housing market. But as with all things real estate, the impact depends entirely on location.

2016 started with a severe stock swoon, and that had an outsized impact on homebuyers with a higher net worth. Historically, high-end housing suffers most in a market downturn.

“As you go up the income quintile, into the top 10 percent, 5 percent, 1 percent by income, their stock exposure increases,” said Sam Khater, chief economist at CoreLogic. “For the typical family, the bulk of their equity is tied up in home equity not stock equity. It’s the reverse for high income.”

Source: Sam Khater/CoreLogic

Khater compared the share of million-dollar home sales to the S&P 500and found a distinct correlation. While the share of $1 million or more homes is very small, just 1.2 percent of all home sales historically, it can move dramatically depending on stock market gains or losses. From the worst of the financial crisis in 2008 to the peak of the equity markets in May 2015, the share of million dollar and more home sales nearly doubled, according to Khater.

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“Since its peak in May 2015, the S&P index declined 10 percent as of mid-February. This decline in the S&P index was matched by a 30 basis point or 15 percent decline in the $1 million or more share,” Khater said.

The correlation, however, is far more acute in certain locations.

In New York City and San Francisco, where the local economies are tied most to financial markets, sales of high-end homes have weakened, and supply is rising. That jump in inventory will likely affect prices down the road, as supply outstrips demand. Nationally there was a 9.3-month supply of homes listed at $1 million or above in December 2014, but that increased to 13 months by December 2015, according to CoreLogic.

“With more than a year’s supply of inventory, prices, for the most part, won’t be increasing,” Khater said.

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In Washington, D.C., however, the stock effect is far more muted. Government, and the high-priced lawyers and lobbyists that surround it, are a steady denominator.

Luxury home and pool

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“Demand is higher, even though the stock market has gotten in the way and the snowstorm has gotten in the way, but demand is there, people are feeling very good about the economy,” said Nancy Taylor Bubes, a 30-year veteran of high-end D.C. real estate and currently an agent with Washington Fine Properties.

She was standing in a $5.75 million listing that received a solid offer in just 10 days. Taylor Bubes, who specializes in the area’s high-end neighborhoods, says she has sold six million-dollar-plus listings year to date, three times what she did last year. Her buyers, mostly domestic and local, are not swayed by Wall Street.

“I actually think the stock market is good for my business. I think people are going to really think about divesting a little bit and putting it into something they would really enjoy,” Taylor Bubes said.