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Why Mortgage Rates Could Continue To Decline

When you read about the housing market, you’ll probably come across some information about inflation or recent decisions made by the Federal Reserve (the Fed). But how do those two things impact you and your homebuying plans? Here’s what you need to know.

The Federal Funds Rate Hikes Have Stalled

One of the Fed’s primary goals is to lower inflation. In order to do that, they started raising the Federal Funds Rate to slow down the economy. Even though this doesn’t directly dictate what happens with mortgage rates, it does have an impact.

Recently inflation has started to cool, a signal those increases worked and are bringing inflation back down. As a result, the Fed’s hikes have gotten smaller and less frequent. In fact, there haven’t been any increases since July (see graph below):

And not only has the Fed decided not to raise the Federal Funds Rate the last three times the committee met, they’ve signaled there may actually be rate cuts coming in 2024. According to the New York Times (NYT):

“Federal Reserve officials left interest rates unchanged in their final policy decision of 2023 and forecast that they will cut borrowing costs three times in the coming year, a sign that the central bank is shifting toward the next phase in its fight against rapid inflation.”

This indicates the Fed thinks the economy and inflation are improving. Why does that matter to you and your plans to buy a home? It could end up leading to lower mortgage rates and improved affordability.

Mortgage Rates Are Coming Down

Mortgage rates are influenced by a wide variety of factors, and inflation and the Fed’s actions (or as has been the case recently, inaction) play a big role. Now that the Fed has paused the increases, it looks more likely mortgage rates will continue their downward trend (see graph below):

 

Although mortgage rates may remain volatile, their recent trend combined with expert forecasts indicate they could continue to go down in 2024. That would improve affordability for buyers and make it easier for sellers to move since they won’t feel as locked-in to their current, low mortgage rate.

Bottom Line

The Fed’s decisions have an indirect impact on mortgage rates. By not raising the Federal Funds Rate, mortgage rates are likely to continue declining. Rely on a trustworthy real estate expert to give you expert advice about changes in the housing market and how they affect you.

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Invest in Yourself by Owning a Home

Are you wondering if it makes sense to buy a home right now? While today’s mortgage rates might seem a bit intimidating, here are two compelling reasons why it still may be a good time to become a homeowner.

Home Values Appreciate over Time

There’s been a lot of confusion around what’s happened with home prices over the past two years. While they did dip ever so slightly in late 2022, this year they’ve been appreciating at a more normal pace, which is good news for the housing market. And while looking at price movement over just a year or two can make you worry prices are usually this unpredictable, history shows in the long run, home values rise (see graph below):

 

Using data from the Federal Reserve for the past 60 years, you can see the overall trend is home prices have climbed quite steadily. Sure, there was an exception around the housing crash of 2008 that caused prices to break the usual trend for a time, but overall, home values have been consistently on the rise.

Increasing home values is one great reason why buying may make more sense than renting. As prices rise, and as you pay down your mortgage, you build equity. Over time, that growing equity gives your net worth a boost.

Rent Keeps Going Up Through the Years

Another reason you may want to consider buying a home instead of renting is the never-ending rent hike. If you’ve ever felt the pinch of rent increasing year after year, you’re not alone. That’s because, rents have climbed steadily over the past six decades (see graph below):

By buying a home, you can lock in your monthly housing costs and bid farewell to those pesky rent hikes. That stability is a game-changer.

In the end, it all boils down to this: your housing payments are an investment, and you’ve got a choice to make. Do you want to invest in yourself or your landlord?

By becoming a homeowner, you’re investing in your own future. When you rent, that’s money you never get back.

When you factor in home values consistently rising, plus the opportunity to get relief from never-ending rent hikes, homeownership can be a path to financial security. As Dr. Jessica Lautz, Deputy Chief Economist and VP of Research at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), states

“If a homebuyer is financially stable, able to manage monthly mortgage costs and can handle the associated household maintenance expenses, then it makes sense to purchase a home.”

Bottom Line

When it comes down to it, buying a home offers more benefits than renting, even when mortgage rates are high. If you want to avoid increasing rents and take advantage of long-term home price appreciation, connect with a local real estate agent to go over your options.

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What Are the Real Reasons You Want To Move Right Now?

If you’re considering selling your house right now, it’s likely because something in your life has changed. And while things like mortgage rates play a big role in your decision, you don’t want that to overshadow why you thought about making a move in the first place.

It’s true mortgage rates are higher right now, and that has an impact on affordability. As a result, some homeowners are deciding they’ll wait to sell because they don’t want to move and have a higher mortgage rate on their next home.

But your lifestyle and your changing needs matter, too. As a recent article from Realtor.com says:

No matter what interest rates and home prices do next, sometimes homeowners just have to move—due to a new job, new baby, divorce, death, or some other major life change.”

Here are a few of the most common reasons people choose to sell today. You may find any one of these resonates with you and may be reason enough to move, even today.

Relocation

Some of the things that can motivate a move to a new area include changing jobs, a desire to be closer to friends and loved ones, wanting to live in your ideal location, or just looking for a change in scenery.

For example, if you just landed your dream job in another state, you may be thinking about selling your current home and moving for work.

Upgrading

Many homeowners decide to sell to move into a larger home. This is especially common when there’s a need for more room to entertain, a home office or gym, or additional bedrooms to accommodate a growing number of loved ones.

For example, if you’re living in a condo and your household is growing, it may be time to find a home that better fits those needs.

Downsizing

Homeowners may also decide to sell because someone’s moved out of the home recently and there’s now more space than needed. It could also be that they’ve recently retired or are ready for a change.

For example, you’ve just kicked off your retirement and you want to move somewhere warmer with less house to maintain. A different home may be better suited for your new lifestyle.

Change in Relationship Status

Divorce, separation, or marriage are other common reasons individuals sell.

For example, if you’ve recently separated, it may be difficult to still live under one roof. Selling and getting a place of your own may be a better option.

Health Concerns

If a homeowner faces mobility challenges or health issues that require specific living arrangements or modifications, they might sell their house to find one that works better for them.

For example, you may be looking to sell your house and use the proceeds to help pay for a unit in an assisted-living facility.

With higher mortgage rates and rising prices, there are some affordability challenges right now – but your needs and your lifestyle matter too. As a recent article from Bankrate says:

“Deciding whether it’s the right time to sell your home is a very personal choice. There are numerous important questions to consider, both financial and lifestyle-based, before putting your home on the market. . . . Your future plans and goals should be a significant part of the equation . . .

Bottom Line

If you want to sell your house and find a new one that better fits your needs, get in touch with a real estate expert. They’ll be there to guide you through the process and help you find a home that works for you.

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Are Higher Mortgage Rates Here To Stay?

Mortgage rates have been back on the rise recently and that’s getting a lot of attention from the press. If you’ve been following the headlines, you may have even seen rates recently reached their highest level in over two decades (see graph below):  

That can feel like a little bit of a gut punch if you’re thinking about making a move. If you’re wondering whether or not you should delay your plans, here’s what you really need to know.   

 How Higher Mortgage Rates Impact You  

 There’s no denying mortgage rates are higher right now than they were in recent years. And, when rates are up, that affects overall home affordability. It works like this. The higher the rate, the more expensive it is to borrow money when you buy a home. That’s because, as rates trend up, your monthly mortgage payment for your future home loan also increases.  

 Urban Institute explains how this is impacting buyers and sellers right now: 

 When mortgage rates go up, monthly housing payments on new purchases also increase. For potential buyers, increased monthly payments can reduce the share of available affordable homes . . . Additionally, higher interest rates mean fewer homes on the market, as existing homeowners have an incentive to hold on to their home to keep their low interest rate.” 

 Basically, some people are deciding to put their plans on hold because of where mortgage rates are right now. But what you want to know is: is that a good strategy

 Where Will Mortgage Rates Go from Here? 

 If you’re eager for mortgage rates to drop, you’re not alone. A lot of people are waiting for that to happen. But here’s the thing. No one knows when it will. Even the experts can’t say with certainty what’s going to happen next.  

 Forecasts project rates will fall in the months ahead, but what the latest data says is that rates have been climbing lately. This disconnect shows just how tricky mortgage rates are to project.  

 The best advice for your move is this: don’t try to control what you can’t control. This includes trying to time the market or guess what the future holds for mortgage rates. As CBS News states

 “If you’re in the market for a new home, experts typically recommend focusing your search on the right home purchase — not the interest rate environment.” 

 Instead, work on building a team of skilled professionals, including a trusted lender and real estate agent, who can explain what’s happening in the market and what it means for you. If you need to move because you’re changing jobs, want to be closer to family, or are in the middle of another big life change, the right team can help you achieve your goal, even now. 

Bottom Line

The best advice for your move is: don’t try to control what you can’t control – especially mortgage rates. Even the experts can’t say for certain where they’ll go from here. Instead, focus on building a team of trusted professionals who can keep you informed. When you’re ready to get the process started, connect with a local real estate agent.

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Understanding the Benefits of Owning Your First Home

Are you considering buying your first home? If so, it can be helpful to know what led other people to make that decision. According to a recent survey of first-time homebuyers by PulteGroup:

“When asked why they purchased their first home recently, the answer was simple: because they wanted to. Either the desire to stop renting or recognition that homeownership is a smart financial investment was the main motivator for 72% of respondents.

While that survey looked specifically at first-time homebuyers buying newly built homes, the same sentiment is true for just about anyone buying their first home. Here’s a bit more information to help you think about those two benefits of homeownership to see if they’re a key factor for you too.

When You Buy a Home, You Have More Stability than When You Rent

You might want to stop renting because rents keep going up. If you’re a renter, that means there’s a chance your payment will increase each time you sign a new rental agreement or renew your current one.

On the other hand, when you buy your home with a fixed-rate mortgage, your monthly housing payment is predictable over the length of that loan. This stability can give you a peace of mind that renting just can’t provide. Jeff Ostrowski, real estate journalist, breaks it down:

With a fixed-rate mortgage, your monthly principal and interest payment is set for as long as you keep the loan. Sign a rental lease, however, and you could see your rent rise the following year, the year after that and so on.”

When You Buy a Home, You Grow Your Wealth as Home Values Climb

Beyond that, owning a home can also be a great long-term investment. While renting may be the more affordable option right now, it doesn’t provide an avenue for you to grow your wealth over time. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, explains that’s an important distinction to consider:

Given current dynamics, more young households may choose to rent in the near term as the cost to own, excluding house price appreciation, has unequivocally increased. Yet, accounting for house price appreciation in that cost of homeownership, whether to rent or buy will depend on where, and if, a home is likely to cost more or less in the near future.

Basically, renting doesn’t allow you to build equity. In contrast, homeownership can help you grow your net worth as your home’s value appreciates. That’s a significant perk you can’t get if you keep renting.

When you take that into account, it may make better financial sense to buy. Most experts project home prices will continue to appreciate over the next few years at a pace that’s more normal for the market. That means when you buy a home, not only are you investing in a place to live, but you’re also investing in your financial future. 

Bottom Line

If you’re ready, it can be a smart move to buy your first home instead of renting. Connect with a real estate professional so you can stabilize your housing payment and start building wealth for your future.

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Your Home Equity Can Offset Affordability Challenges

Are you thinking about selling your house? If so, today’s mortgage rates may be making you wonder if that’s the right decision. Some homeowners are reluctant to sell and take on a higher mortgage rate on their next home. If you’re worried about this too, know that even though rates are high right now, so is home equity. Here’s what you need to know.

Bankrate explains exactly what equity is and how it grows:

Home equity is the portion of your home that you’ve paid off and own outright. It’s the difference between what the home is worth and how much is still owed on your mortgage. As your home’s value increases over the long term and you pay down the principal on the mortgage, your equity stake grows.”

In other words, equity is how much your home is worth now, minus what you still owe on your home loan.

How Much Equity Do Homeowners Have Now?

Recently, your equity has been growing faster than you might think. To help contextualize just how much the average homeowner has, CoreLogic says:

“. . . the average U.S. homeowner now has about $290,000 in equity.”

That’s because, over the past few years, home prices went up significantly – and those rising prices helped your equity to accumulate faster than usual. While the market has started to normalize, there are still more people wanting to buy homes than there are homes available for sale. This high demand is causing home prices to go up again.

According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the Census, and ATTOM, a property data provider, nearly two-thirds (68.7%) of homeowners have either fully paid off their mortgages or have at least 50% equity (see chart below):

That means nearly 70% of homeowners have a tremendous amount of equity right now.

How Equity Helps with Your Affordability Concerns

With today’s affordability challenges, your equity can make a big difference when you decide to move. After you sell your house, you can use the equity you’ve built up in your home to help you buy your next one. Here’s how:

  • Be an all-cash buyer: If you’ve been living in your current home for a long time, you might have enough equity to buy a new house without having to take out a loan. If that’s the case, you won’t need to borrow any money or worry about mortgage rates. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) states:

“These all-cash home buyers are happily avoiding the higher mortgage interest rates . . .”

  • Make a larger down payment: Your equity could be used toward your next down payment. It might even be enough to let you put a larger amount down, so you won’t have to borrow as much money so today’s rates become less of a sticking point. Experian explains:

“Increasing your down payment lowers your principal loan amount and, consequently, your loan-to-value ratio, which could lead to a lower interest rate offer from your lender.”

Bottom Line

If you’re thinking about moving, the equity you’ve built up can make a big difference, especially today. To find out how much equity you’ve got in your current house and how you can use it for your next home, get in touch with a trusted real agent.

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Why Is Housing Inventory So Low?

One question that’s top of mind if you’re thinking about making a move today is: Why is it so hard to find a house to buy? And while it may be tempting to wait it out until you have more options, that’s probably not the best strategy. Here’s why.

There aren’t enough homes available for sale, but that shortage isn’t just a today problem. It’s been a challenge for years. Let’s take a look at some of the long-term and short-term factors that have contributed to this limited supply.

Underbuilding Is a Long-Standing Problem

One of the big reasons inventory is low is because builders haven’t been building enough homes in recent years. The graph below shows new construction for single-family homes over the past five decades, including the long-term average for housing units completed:

For 14 straight years, builders didn’t construct enough homes to meet the historical average (shown in red). That underbuilding created a significant inventory deficit. And while new home construction is back on track and meeting the historical average right now, the long-term inventory problem isn’t going to be solved overnight. 

Today’s Mortgage Rates Create a Lock-In Effect

There are also a few factors at play in today’s market adding to the inventory challenge. The first is the mortgage rate lock-in effect. Basically, some homeowners are reluctant to sell because of where mortgage rates are right now. They don’t want to move and take on a rate that’s higher than the one they have on their current home. The chart below helps illustrate just how many homeowners may find themselves in this situation:

Those homeowners need to remember their needs may matter just as much as the financial aspects of their move.

Misinformation in the Media Is Creating Unnecessary Fear

Another thing that’s limiting inventory right now is the fear that’s been created by the media. You’ve likely seen the negative headlines calling for a housing crash, or the ones saying home prices would fall by 20%. While neither of those things happened, the stories may have dinged your confidence enough for you to think it’s better to hold off and wait for things to calm down. As Jason Lewris, Co-Founder and Chief Data Officer at Parclsays:

“In the absence of trustworthy, up-to-date information, real estate decisions are increasingly being driven by fear, uncertainty, and doubt.”

That’s further limiting inventory because people who would make a move otherwise now feel hesitant to do so. But the market isn’t doom and gloom, even if the headlines are. An agent can help you separate fact from fiction

How This Impacts You

If you’re wondering how today’s low inventory affects you, it depends on if you’re selling or buying a home, or both.

  • For buyers: A limited number of homes for sale means you’ll want to seriously consider all of your options, including various areas and housing types. A skilled professional will help you explore all of what’s available and find the home that best fits your needs. They can even coach you through casting a broader net if you need to expand your search.
  • For sellers: Today’s low inventory actually offers incredible benefits because your house will stand out. A real estate agent can walk you through why it’s especially worthwhile to sell with these conditions. And since many sellers are also buyers, that agent is also an essential resource to help you stay up to date on the latest homes available for sale in your area so you can find your next dream home. 

Bottom Line

The low supply of homes for sale isn’t a new challenge. There are a number of long-term and short-term factors leading to the current inventory deficit. If you’re looking to make a move, connect with a real estate agent. That way you’ll have an expert on your side to explain how this impacts you and what’s happening with housing inventory in your area.

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Mortgage Rates: Past, Present, and Possible Future

If you’re hoping to buy a home this year, you’re probably paying close attention to mortgage rates. Since mortgage rates impact what you can afford when you take out a home loan – and affordability is a challenge today – it’s a good time to look at the big picture of where mortgage rates have been historically compared to where they are now. Beyond that, it’s important to understand their relationship with inflation for insights into where mortgage rates might go in the near future.

Giving Context to the Sticker Shock

Freddie Mac has been tracking the 30-year fixed mortgage rate since April of 1971. Every week, they release the results of their Primary Mortgage Market Survey, which averages mortgage application data from lenders across the country (see graph below):

Looking at the right side of the graph, mortgage rates have increased significantly since the start of last year. But even with that rise, today’s rates are still below the 52-year average. While that historical perspective is good context, buyers have gotten used to mortgage rates between 3% and 5%, which is where they’ve been over the past 15 years.

That’s important because it explains why the recent jump in rates might have you feeling sticker shock even though they’re close to their long-term average. While many buyers have adjusted to the elevated rates over the past year, a slightly lower rate would be a welcome sight. To determine if that’s a realistic possibility, it’s important to look at inflation.

Where Could Mortgage Rates Go in the Future? 

The Federal Reserve has been working hard to lower inflation since early 2022. That’s significant because, historically, there’s been a connection between inflation and mortgage rates (see graph below):

This graph shows a pretty reliable relationship between inflation and mortgage rates. Looking at the left side of the graph, each time inflation moves significantly (shown in blue), mortgage rates follow suit shortly after (shown in green).

The circled portion of the graph points out the most recent spike in inflation, with mortgage rates following closely behind. As inflation has moderated a bit this year, mortgage rates haven’t yet made a similar move.

That means, if history is any guide, the market is waiting for mortgage rates to follow inflation and head back down. It’s impossible to accurately predict where mortgage rates will go for sure, but moderating inflation means mortgage rates going down in the near future would fit a well-established trend. 

Bottom Line

To understand where mortgage rates may be going, it’s helpful to look at where they’ve been in the past. There’s a clear connection between inflation and mortgage rates, and if that historical relationship holds true, the recent decline in inflation may mean good news for the future of mortgage rates and your homeownership goals.

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How Inflation Affects the Housing Market

Have you ever wondered how inflation impacts the housing market? Believe it or not, they’re connected. Whenever there are changes to one, both are affected. Here’s a high-level overview of the connection between the two.

The Relationship Between Housing Inflation and Overall Inflation

Shelter inflation is the measure of price growth specific to housing. It comes from a survey of renters and homeowners that’s done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The survey asks renters how much they’re paying in rent, and homeowners how much they’d rent their homes for, if they weren’t living in them.

Much like overall inflation measures the cost of everyday items, shelter inflation measures the cost of housing. And for four consecutive months, based on that survey, shelter inflation has been coming down (see graph below):

Why does this matter? Well, shelter inflation makes up about one-third of overall inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). So, when shelter inflation moves, it leads to noticeable moves in overall inflation. That means the recent dip in shelter inflation might be a sign that overall inflation could fall in the months ahead.

That moderation would be a welcome sight for the Federal Reserve (the Fed). They’ve been working to get inflation under control since early 2022. While they’ve made some headway (it peaked at 8.9% in the middle of last year), they’re still trying to get to their 2% goal (the latest report is 3.3%). 

Inflation and the Federal Funds Rate  

What’s the Fed been doing to lower inflation? They’ve been increasing the Federal Funds Rate. That interest rate influences how much it costs banks to borrow money from each other. When inflation climbed, the Fed responded by raising the Federal Funds Rate to keep the economy from overheating.

The graph below shows the relationship between the two. Each time inflation (shown in the blue line) starts to climb, the Fed raises the Federal Funds Rate (shown in the orange line) to try to get it back to their target of 2% (see below):

The circled portion of the graph shows the most recent spike in inflation, the Fed’s actions to raise the Federal Funds Rate to fight that, and the moderation of inflation that happened in response to that hike. As inflation gets closer to the Fed’s current 2% goal, they may not need to raise the Federal Funds Rate much further.

A Brighter Future for Mortgage Rates?

So, what does all of this mean for you? While the actions coming out of the Fed don’t determine mortgage rates, they do have an impact. As Mortgage Professional America (MPA) explains:

“. . . mortgage rates and inflation are connected, however indirectly. When inflation rises, mortgage rates rise to keep up with the value of the US dollar. When inflation drops, mortgage rates follow suit.

While no one can predict the future for mortgage rates, it’s encouraging to see the signs of moderating inflation in the economy

Bottom Line

Whether you’re looking to buy, sell, or just stay informed about the housing market, connect with a local real estate expert who can help.

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Why You Don’t Need To Fear the Return of Adjustable-Rate Mortgages

If you remember the housing crash back in 2008, you may recall just how popular adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) were back then. And after years of being virtually nonexistent, more people are once again using ARMs when buying a home. Let’s break down why that’s happening and why this isn’t cause for concern.

Why ARMs Have Gained Popularity More Recently

This graph uses data from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) to show how the percentage of adjustable-rate mortgages has increased over the past few years:

As the graph conveys, after hovering around 3% of all mortgages in 2021, many more homeowners turned to adjustable-rate mortgages again last year. There’s a simple explanation for that increase. Last year is when mortgage rates climbed dramatically. With higher borrowing costs, some homeowners decided to take out this type of loan because traditional borrowing costs were high, and an ARM gave them a lower rate. 

Why Today’s ARMs Aren’t Like the Ones in 2008

To put things into perspective, let’s remember these aren’t like the ARMs that became popular leading up to 2008. Part of what caused the housing crash was loose lending standards. Back then, when a buyer got an ARM, banks and lenders didn’t require proof of their employment, assets, income, etc. Basically, people were getting loans that they shouldn’t have been awarded. This set many homeowners up for trouble because they couldn’t pay back the loans that they never had to qualify for in the first place.

This time around, lending standards are different. Banks and lenders learned from the crash, and now they verify income, assets, employment, and more. This means today’s buyers actually have to qualify for their loans and show they’ll be able to repay them.

Archana Pradhan, Economist at CoreLogic, explains the difference between then and now:

“Around 60% of Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (ARM) that were originated in 2007 were low- or no-documentation loans . . . Similarly, in 2005, 29% of ARM borrowers had credit scores below 640 . . . Currently, almost all conventional loans, including both ARMs and Fixed-Rate Mortgages, require full documentation, are amortized, and are made to borrowers with credit scores above 640.”

In simple terms, Laurie Goodman at Urban Institute helps drive this point home by saying:

“Today’s Adjustable-Rate Mortgages are no riskier than other mortgage products and their lower monthly payments could increase access to homeownership for more potential buyers.”

Bottom Line

If you’re worried today’s adjustable-rate mortgages are like the ones from the housing crash, rest assured, things are different this time.

 

And, if you’re a first-time homebuyer and you’d like to learn more about lending options that could help you overcome today’s affordability challenges, reach out to a trusted lender.