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Vol. 17 No. 32 - May 24, 2017

REAL ESTATE

Its all about the mortgage rate

 

American home buyers are spoiled, at least when it comes to mortgage rates. The mortgage rates have been so low that most people can't remember when rates were double digits, but those of us who are older or were in the real estate business during those years do remember.

I was perusing a Freddie Mac chart comparing the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates from 1971, not exactly beach reading, but it is my thing. Based on Freddie Mac's statistics, 1981 was the all-time high since Freddie started compiling its rates. In 1981, the average, annual, 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 16.63 percent, approximately four times today's average rate, a shocking number.

At the end of April, Freddie reported that the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.05; April of 2016 was 3.61, April 2015 was 3.67; April 2014 was 4.34 and 2013 was 3.45 by comparison. The lowest average rate on Freddie's chart since 1971 was 3.65 in 2016. In addition, the last time rates went above 4 percent was in April of 2010, which was 5.10 percent.

So why does everyone let out a deep sigh when mortgage rates tick up even a little? Well, a decline in mortgage rates can reduce monthly mortgage payments or allow buyers to purchase more expense homes than they might otherwise be able to. Conversely, a higher rate will have the opposite effect.

Also, mortgage rates can shift the marketplace having an effect on inventory and selling prices. United States home prices rose 5.9 percent in the 12 months ending in January 2017, the fastest rate since mid-2014. In addition, for the first time in a decade, more new American households have chosen to buy homes rather than rent. The homeownership rate was at a 50-year low of 62.9 percent in the second quarter of 2016 after peaking at just over 69 percent in the mid-2000s. For the past couple of quarters, it was around 63.5 percent below the long-term average of about 65 percent.

The Census Bureau reported that 854,000 new owner households were formed in the first quarter of this year. This was more than double the 365,000 new renter households, indicating the long-term decline in homeownership rates might be coming to an end. Owning a home rather than renting is good for the overall economy of the country, since homeowners spend more money on improvements to their property including renovations, appliances, furniture and flooring.

Much of this growth can be attributed to the very low mortgage rates we've been enjoying for a very long time. Even if rates start going up a little which is likely overall we are living through an historic time of consistently low mortgage rates.

For 2017, the real estate market nationally is predicted to be fast with houses selling quickly because of continued low inventory, and buyers are jumping in sensing that the very very low mortgage rates may start adjusting upward. Even though specific markets around the country, including Tampa, are hot spots with strong job growth attracting first-time buyers, Freddie Mac is still predicting home sales will decline slightly this year.

Whatever happens over the next few months or years regarding mortgage rates, remember where we were over 30 years ago. The truth is that even in the days of 16 percent mortgage rates, people were still buying houses because a house is more than just a physical building, it's a home. So, stop whining whenever you see the mortgage rate charts inching up. You're in a lot better position than your parents, who were not at all spoiled.


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