ABC News quoted me in Small Interest Rate Changes Mean Big Money for Home Buyers. The story reads in part,
As the economy continues to recover from the worst recession since the 1930s, mortgage interest rates remain at historically low levels.
The Primary Mortgage Market Survey, produced by Freddie Mac, reported in mid-March the average rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages was 4.32 percent; 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.32 percent and interest rates 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable rate mortgages averaged 3.02 percent. Nonetheless, Frank Nothaft, chief economist for Freddie Mac, speculated the Fed’s gradual tapering of its stimulus efforts may prompt a rise in mortgage interest rates.
If mortgage interest rates do rise significantly in the future, what, if any effect will there be on the home buying market? According to Steve Calk, chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Federal Savings Bank, interest rates have never been the deciding factor for whether potential home buyers actually purchase a home.
“Whether interest rates are 5.5 percent or 7.5 percent, when people are ready to buy, they’ll buy a home,” Calk said.
Price, location, size, appreciation value – these are factors many would-be homeowners consider long before mortgage interest rates enter into the picture. However, once they begin actively searching for a home, interest rates often play a role in their ultimate buying decision.
This is especially the case when interest rates are high, according to David Reiss, Professor of Law at Brooklyn Law School.
“When people think about buying houses, they think about the price of the house. But what they really should be thinking of are the monthly costs. The average 25-year-old might not think about housing rates until they go to a mortgage broker.
“Then they discover that 8 percent interest may mean that instead of a $200,000 home they can only afford a $160,000 home,” Reiss said.
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Tight credit and persistent high unemployment have almost certainly played a role in depressing home buying figures during the recovery, as has the large numbers of home owners who perhaps bought homes at the height of the bubble who now find themselves underwater on their mortgages. However, many underwater homeowners could be missing out on a unique opportunity presented by the present financial climate. In a housing market where prices are depressed and borrowing is cheap, home buyers with solid incomes and good credit can find lenders willing to extend credit on favorable terms, ultimately putting them ahead financially, even if they sell their present homes at a loss, according to Reiss.
“Many people feel stuck in place because they are underwater or the market is bad. But although it may be counterintuitive, it could actually be a smart move to sell in a bad market. It’s a bit more sophisticated strategy, but you could move out of a cheap home into a better home for not that much money,” Reiss said.
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Education and due diligence in maintaining good credit are the most potent tools that potential home buyers can employ, whether they are seeking their first home, a larger home or are scaling down to smaller quarters as empty nesters. Obtaining prequalification can provide home seekers with a better idea of precisely how much house they can afford, Reiss said.