The Housing Market Under Trump

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TheStreet.com quoted me in Interest Rates Likely to Rise Under Trump, Could Affect Confidence of Homebuyers. It opens,

Interest rates should increase gradually during the next four years under a Donald Trump administration, which could dampen growth in the housing industry, economists and housing experts predict.

The 10-year Treasury rose over the 2% threshold on Wednesday for the first time in several months, driving mortgage rates higher with the 30-year conventional rate rising to 3.73% according to Bankrate.com. Mortgage pricing is tied to the 10-year Treasury.

Housing demand will remain flat with a rise in interest rates as many first-time homebuyers will be saddled with more debt, said Peter Nigro, a finance professor at Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I.

“With first-time homebuyers more in debt due to student loans, I don’t expect much growth in home purchasing,” he said.

Interest rates will also be affected by the size of the fiscal stimulus since additional infrastructure spending and associated debt “could push interest rates up through the issuance of more government debt,” Nigro said.

Even if interest rates spike in the next year, banks will not benefit, because there is a lack of demand, said Peter Borish, chief strategist with Quad Group, a New York-based financial firm. The economy is slowing down, and consumers have already borrowed money at very “cheap” interest rates, he said.

The policies set forth by a Trump administration will lead to contractionary results and will not spur additional growth in the housing market.

“I prefer to listen to the markets,” Borish said. “This will put downward pressure on the prices in the market. Everyone complained about Dodd-Frank, but why is JPMorgan Chase’s stock at all time highs?”

An interest rate increase could still occur in December, said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for Realtor.com, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based real estate company. With nearly five weeks before the December Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, the market can contemplate the potential outcomes.

“While the market is now indicating a reduced probability of a short-term rate hike at that meeting, the Fed has repeatedly indicated that they would be data-driven in their decision,” he said in a written statement. “If the markets calm down and November employment data look solid on December 2, a rate hike could still happen. The market moves yesterday are already indicating that financial markets are pondering that the Trump effect could be positive for the economy.

“The Fed is likely to start increasing the federal funds rate at a “much faster pace starting next year,” said K.C. Sanjay, chief economist for Axiometrics, a Dallas-based apartment market and student housing research firm. “This will cause single-family mortgage rates to increase slightly, however they will remain well below the long-term average.”

Since Trump has remained mum on many topics, including housing, predicting a short-term outlook is challenging. One key factor is the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who are the main players in the mortgage market, because they own or guarantee over $4 trillion in mortgages, remain in conservatorship and “play a critical role in keeping mortgage rates down through the now explicit subsidy or government backing which allows them to raise funds more cheaply,” Nigro said.

It is unlikely any changes will occur with them, because “Trump has not articulated a plan to deal with them and coming up with a plan to deal with these giants is unlikely,” he said.

Trump could attempt to take on government sponsored enterprises such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, said Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist for Trulia, a San Francisco-based real estate website.

“If he does, it’s going to be a hairy endeavor for him, because he’ll need bipartisan support to do so,” he said.

Since he has alluded to ending government conservatorship and allowing government sponsored enterprises to “recapitalize by allowing retention of their own profits instead of passing them on to the Treasury,” the result is that banks could have their liquidity and lending activity increase, which could help boost demand for homes, McLaughlin said.

“We caution President-elect Trump that he would also need to simultaneously help address housing supply, which has been at a low point over the past few years,” he said. “The difficulty for him is that most of the impediments to new housing supply rest and the state and local levels, not the federal.”

Even on Trump’s campaign website, there is “next to nothing” about his ideas on housing, said David Reiss, a law professor at the Brooklyn Law School in New York. The platform of the Republican Party and Vice President-elect Mike Pence could mean that the federal government will have a smaller footprint in the mortgage market.

“There will be a reduction in the federal government’s guaranty of mortgages, and this will likely increase the interest rates charged on mortgages, but will reduce the likelihood of taxpayer bailouts,” he said. “Fannie and Freddie will likely have fewer ties to the federal government and the FHA is likely to be limited to the lower end of the mortgage market.”

Homebuyer’s Guide to Rate Hike

Day Donaldson

Fed Chair Yellen

U.S. News & World Report quoted me in A Consumer’s Guide to the Fed Interest Rate Hike. It opens,

The era of cheap money isn’t exactly over, but on Wednesday, after seven years of having near zero interest rates, the Federal Reserve voted to raise the central bank’s benchmark interest rate from a range of 0 percent to 0.25 percent to a range of 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent. Economists have largely seen this as a positive development – it means the American economy is considered strong enough to handle higher interest rates – but, of course, the all-important question on everyone’s minds is likely: What does this mean for me?

It depends, of course, on where you’re putting your money these days.

Homebuying. While it’s expected that the minor interest rate hike will result in it being more costly to borrow money to buy a home, that isn’t necessarily the case. Numerous factors influence mortgage rates, from where in the country your home is located to the state of the global economy to whether inflation is believed to be around the corner. Still, there’s a pretty fair chance that the interest rate hike will lead to higher borrowing costs.

But it’s worth remembering that even if the rates go up, it’s still cheap to buy a house compared to the recent past. According to Freddie Mac’s website, the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage currently stands at 3.94 percent. If you bought a house, say, 15 years ago, the annual average rate in 2000 was 8.05 percent.

David Reiss, a law professor at Brooklyn Law School who specializes in real estate, says he wouldn’t rush out to buy a home based on the Fed’s announcement.

“I would caution strongly against letting the Fed’s actions on the interest rate influence the home-buying decision all that much, no matter what market you live in,” Reiss says. “First of all, the mortgage market has taken the Fed’s likely actions into account already, so interest rates … incorporate some of the rise in rate already.”

Bottom line, he says: “Generally, people should be buying a home when it makes sense for their lifestyle. Expect to stay put for a while? Maybe you should buy a home. Expecting kids? Maybe you should buy a home. Retiring to a warmer clime?  Maybe you should buy a home.”

Again, the interest rate climbed 0.25​ percent, and while the Fed has indicated that rates may continue to rise, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has stressed that any future hikes will be gradual.

“Small changes in interest rates do not generally make that much of a dollars-and-cents difference in the decision to buy,” Reiss says.