Rising interest rates – a help and hindrance to recovering housing market

by Dan Krell © 2013

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home for saleAfter much speculation, mortgage interest rates appear to be on the move. Although interest rates are slowly creeping higher, rates are still relatively low. Some economists expect that when the Fed’s Quantitative Easing program begins tapering, mortgage interest rates may jump due to financial market volatility.

Many fear that increasing mortgage rates could derail the recovering housing market. In an August 19th news release (realtor.org), Chief NAR economist Lawrence Yun stated that although the pace of home sales are at its highest since February 2007, the market could be experiencing a “temporary peak” due to home buyers’ seeking to close deals before interest rates rise significantly. Looking ahead, Dr. Yun expects that rising interest rates and limited inventory could create an imbalanced market due to inconsistent home sales.

Home sale prices also have been rising, prompting bidding wars, as the median home sale price was reported by NAR to have maintained nine consecutive months of double digit year over year increases. However, Dr. Yun stated, “Limited inventory in some areas means multiple bidding remains a factor; 17 percent of all homes sold above the asking price in August, although 63 percent sold below list price.”

This week’s release of July’s S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index (spindices.com) also revealed that home sale prices were still holding onto the double digit annual rate of gain over 2012 levels, as the 10 city and 20 city composites posted about a 12% year over year increase for July. However, it is pointed out that home price are still “far below their peak levels.”

The sharp increases in home sale prices sparked fears of another housing bubble. But price gains only increased about 2% from June to July. Monthly price gains have lessened, and the gradual slowdown of home price gains may indicate that home prices may be peaking. Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, David M. Blitzer, stated, “Following the increase in mortgage rates beginning last May, applications for mortgages have dropped, suggesting that rising interest rates are affecting housing. The Fed’s announcement last week that QE3 bond buying will continue for the time being may have only a limited, though favorable, impact on housing.”

The rapid increase in home prices has affected potential appreciation for many home owners who waited to sell their homes. And the increased inventory provided additional housing stock for eager home buyers. Given the recent increases in home sale prices, the expectation of an uncertain real estate market may not be welcome news by home buyers and sellers.

But home price increases have not only helped the housing market, but the economy as a whole. CoreLogic (corelogic.com) reported that the housing sector contributed about 17% to GDP growth during the first quarter of 2013. However, CoreLogic predicts that increasing mortgage rates will directly affect the housing market, and indirectly affect the overall economy: Single family housing starts (new homes) are thought to be declining because of increasing mortgage rates; and CoreLogic estimates that long term GDP growth to be about 1.75%.

It remains to be seen if modest increases in mortgage interest rates have been beneficial to stave off another housing bubble. However, given that the indicators and experts point to a housing recovery peak; increasing mortgage interest rates could suggest caution for the housing market.

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Disclaimer.  This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice.  Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction.  This article was originally published the week of September 23, 2013 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2013 Dan Krell.

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