Negative Interest Rates Redux

negative interest rates
Average mortgage rates by decade

Negative interest rates used to be a controversial topic.  However, countries such as Japan and those in the European Union entered into the uncharted waters to stimulate their economies in the years following the Great Recession.  Back in 2015 there was speculation that the US was headed into negative interest rates too.  But those thoughts quickly vanished as the economy rapidly expanded after 2016.  But with the prospect of more economic distress down the road with on-and-off again lockdowns and business restrictions, are negative interest rates on the table again?

What are “negative interest rates?”  A very rudimentary explanation is it’s when interest rates go below zero.  Meaning that instead of borrowers paying interest on loans, the lender pays the borrower.  It may sound backward to what we are used to, but it is a “tool” that central bankers may employ in times of severe financial crisis. 

Although many economists contend that negative interest rates are a viable short-term option to respond to a severe financial crisis, it is uncertain the policy works as intended.  Negative interest rates expose a vulnerable economy to future financial downturns.  Additionally, some are concerned about long-term deflationary effects, while others fear it results in hyperinflation.  Some experts point to the potential of a paradoxical effect of freeze community lending.  This can occur if investors hold onto their cash, instead of depositing it with banks for zero interest (or even having to pay the bank to hold their money).  This lack of investment has the potential will reduce banks’ available capital to lend. 

The possibility of negative interest rates in the US is once again a hot topic.  A 2020 NAR report discusses this option (Expectations & Market Realities in Real Estate 2020-Forging Ahead; nar.realtor):

There is nothing stopping the U.S. from moving into negative interest rates, but several issues would arise should the U.S. decide to take that plunge. One of the biggest fears is that the FOMC [Fed Open Market Committee] would not have any tools left to employ when the next downturn occurs.  Global investors might lose faith in the safety of U.S. government bonds as negative interest rates and other forms of quantitative easing may be perceived as a sign of weaknesses in the economy. In addition, the portfolios of millions of U.S. investors would likely be hurt. According to the Office of Management and Budget, $16.8 trillion of the government’s $22.7 trillion debt is held by the public of the U.S.  A large portion of the holders of U.S. debt are retired or soon-to-be retirees who have their portfolios in risk-free U.S. Treasurys. Many federal programs, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, are also heavily invested in Treasurys, meaning these public programs would most likely lose money on the aggregate due to negative interest rates.”

(Expectations & Market Realities in Real Estate 2020-Forging Ahead; nar.realtor)

Could we see negative interest rates in the US?

In their recent statement of the FOMC (federalreserve.gov), the Federal Reserve believes that although economic activity and employment are recovering, the health emergency has caused a tremendous human and economic hardship in the US (and globally as well).  If extraneous events are unchanged, “Overall financial conditions remain accommodative, in part reflecting policy measures to support the economy and the flow of credit to U.S. households and businesses.”  However…“The path of the economy will depend significantly on the course of the virus. The ongoing public health crisis will continue to weigh on economic activity, employment, and inflation in the near term, and poses considerable risks to the economic outlook over the medium term.”

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2021/01/04/negative-interest-rates-redux

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2021

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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. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Real Estate Thanksgiving

real estate thanksgiving
A Real Estate Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time to take stock and be thankful.  Although the original Thanksgiving may have had a religious purpose, today’s secular holiday is about traditions.  However, it seems as if the tradition of enjoying a peaceful meal with family and friends has been increasingly difficult over the past few years.  But since the election is over, let’s try to talk about something worthy of discussion (at least until the next election cycle begins), such as real estate and housing. Yes, it’s a “Real Estate Thanksgiving.”

Why shouldn’t we focus on something we all can get behind? There is a good chance that your dinner guests will include someone will be moving next year.  Whether they are buying, selling, or renting a home, someone at the dinner table will be affected by such issues as housing affordability, mortgage rates, and availability of homes.

Things to talk about during your Real Estate Thanksgiving might be about mortgages, home sales, home prices, rent, maintenance, etc.  The topics are seemingly endless.

Talking about mortgages during the Real Estate Thanksgiving.  The current news is about mortgage interest rates.  How high will mortgage rates go?  Housing experts agree that mortgage rates will likely be about 5 percent next year (although the Fed just announced they may hold off on interest rate hikes after spring).  Paying more interest on your mortgage may not be your idea of positively affecting home sales.  However, increasing mortgage rates typically moderate home price growth because of affordability.  Another silver lining of increasing interest rates is a stimulated lending environment.  As a result, mortgage companies will likely further loosen lending requirements, which will increase the home buyer pool.

Real Estate Thanksgiving and home sales could focus on the reasons for the fall slowdown.  Will home sales rebound this spring?  You’re probably aware that home sales have dropped off during the fall.  Major media outlets have grasped the news and created the meme depicting “housing bubble 2.0.”  You can’t really blame them because there are many economists who are projecting bleak home sales to continue through spring.

The main reason for a disappointing 2019 forecast given by many industry insiders is affordability.  I contend that this rationale is shallow and one-dimensional.  There is no doubt that rising interest rates and increasing home prices are on the minds of home buyers.  However, the lack of home sale inventory is a dimension that is often forgotten when discussing home sales and rentals.  The lack of available homes for buyers and tenants to choose has forced many into fierce competition.  The result has been upward pressure on home prices and rents.

You have to also consider the economy at your Real Estate Thanksgiving. The strength of the economy is an aspect affecting the housing market that many haven’t discussed.  Whether you want to admit it or not, the economy is the strongest it has been in decades.  Consumer outlook is optimistic.  Home buyers and renters have expressed confidence about their job prospects too.  Employers are competing for talent, influencing the highest wage increases in over a decade.

Commenting on the economy, First American chief economist Mark Fleming believes that the economy will be a major force in the housing market (How Will a Potential September Rate Hike Impact Existing-Home Sales?; blog.firstam.com; September 18, 2018).  One of the features of his analysis for 2019 is “It’s the Economy and First-Time Home Buyer Demand, Stupid.”  He described a pent-up demand from a wave of millennial of first-time home buyers who will be in the market next year.

Fleming explained that home sales slump during an adjustment period that home buyers undergo when interest rates increase.  The same thing occurred in 2010 when rates increased from 4.5 to 5 percent.  However, the economy was struggling at that time, and home sales were stagnant.  Fleming described First American’s positive housing forecasts overcoming rising interest rates, saying,

“According to our Potential Home Sales Model, the boost from the strong economy and first-time home buyer demand should overcome any downward pressure from rising rates on home sales.”

Original article is published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/11/21/real-estate-thanksgiving/

By Dan Krell. Copyright © 2018.

If you like this post, do not copy; instead please:
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Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
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. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.