The housing market into June finds itself in a financial period not seen for at least four years.
Interest rates, including the common 30-year-fixed mortgage, are rising — showing close to a 3/4 point increase since early this year. On January 4, rates were 3.95 percent. They reached 4.66 percent as of May 24, according to the latest figures from Ycharts financial information site. Nonetheless, mortgage rates remain historically low. They surged above double figures percentage-wise in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The five-month upward move in interest rates raise questions for prospective homebuyers, and to a lesser extent, sellers. Yet economists argue that the rise isn't steep or lengthy enough to shake up home markets in a big way.
"While this spring's sudden rise in mortgage rates are taking up a good chunk of the conversation, it's the stubbornly low inventory levels in much of the country that are preventing sales from really taking off like they should be," says Sam Khater, chief economist for lenders' mortgage capital provider Freddie Mac. "The underlying demand for buying a home is holding up, and will continue to do so, as long as the economy is generating solid job and income growth," he says. "Most markets simply need a lot more new and existing supply to cool price growth and give buyers enough choices.”
According to Freddie Mac's May outlook, home buying is more expensive now due to a jump in residential prices and the mortgage rate climb, but home sales still look to "squeak out a gain" this year.
The congressionally created entity expects a healthy economy and strong consumer confidence to lead to a 3 percent increase in total home sales in 2018. The positive outcome emerges even with obstacles such as climbing home prices, higher mortgage rates and low supply, Freddie Mac says.
Looking ahead, the venture believes the national economy will grow by 2.7 percent for the year ignited by a hike in consumer spending. At the same time, interest rates will continue to inch up, and are forecast to average 4.9 percent by the end of the year. Low supply will keep home sales this year down to a 3.3 percent increase from 2017 to 6.32 million transactions and home prices are forecast to climb 7 percent in 2018. Rising interest rates are expected to dampen mortgage refinancing, which will outweigh any increase in purchase loans, Freddie Mac notes.
According to Mortgage News Daily, the 30-year fixed mortgage currently averages between 4.625 percent and 4.75 percent. Federal Housing Administration and Veteran's Administration mortgages are at 4.375 percent as of June 5. Loans at a fixed rate for 15 years average 4 percent. And adjustable rate mortgages, which can rise if rates go up, are seeing a 3.75-4.25 percent rate depending on the lender, the daily newsletter points out.
Escalating mortgage rates can impact some aged groups more than others, according to realtor.com. The home funding resource in an April article found that millennial buyers under age 35 would be "vulnerable to an already challenging market" due to accumulated debt and smaller down payments. Close to 80 percent of people surveyed note that rising interest rates would influence their home search, including 92-93 percent of buyers aged 18-34 years old.
"These obstacles won’t prevent millennials from finding and buying homes, but most will have to adapt to these challenging market conditions by adjusting their home search,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist for realtor.com.
As a result of rising rates, 37 percent of millennials say that they have to hunt for a less expensive home, compared with 24 percent of buyers age 55 and older. One-third of home searchers aged 18-34 would look for a smaller home, compared with 23 percent of baby boomers aged 54 and older.
Less than one-third of buyers say they expect a less than 10 percent down payment based on purchase price, 17 percent are eyeing no more than 20 percent of the price and 15 percent indicated they would write a check for 11-15 percent of transaction, realtor.com reports.