One question that’s top of mind if you’re thinking about making a move today is: Why is it so hard to find a house to buy? And while it may be tempting to wait it out until you have more options, that’s probably not the best strategy. Here’s why.
There aren’t enough homes available for sale, but that shortage isn’t just a today problem. It’s been a challenge for years. Let’s take a look at some of the long-term and short-term factors that have contributed to this limited supply.
Underbuilding Is a Long-Standing Problem
One of the big reasons inventory is low is because builders haven’t been building enough homes in recent years. The graph below shows new construction for single-family homes over the past five decades, including the long-term average for housing units completed:
For 14 straight years, builders didn’t construct enough homes to meet the historical average (shown in red). That underbuilding created a significant inventory deficit. And while new home construction is back on track and meeting the historical average right now, the long-term inventory problem isn’t going to be solved overnight.
Today’s Mortgage Rates Create a Lock-In Effect
There are also a few factors at play in today’s market adding to the inventory challenge. The first is the mortgage rate lock-in effect. Basically, some homeowners are reluctant to sell because of where mortgage rates are right now. They don’t want to move and take on a rate that’s higher than the one they have on their current home. The chart below helps illustrate just how many homeowners may find themselves in this situation:
Those homeowners need to remember their needs may matter just as much as the financial aspects of their move.
Misinformation in the Media Is Creating Unnecessary Fear
Another thing that’s limiting inventory right now is the fear that’s been created by the media. You’ve likely seen the negative headlines calling for a housing crash, or the ones saying home prices would fall by 20%. While neither of those things happened, the stories may have dinged your confidence enough for you to think it’s better to hold off and wait for things to calm down. As Jason Lewris, Co-Founder and Chief Data Officer at Parcl, says:
“In the absence of trustworthy, up-to-date information, real estate decisions are increasingly being driven by fear, uncertainty, and doubt.”
That’s further limiting inventory because people who would make a move otherwise now feel hesitant to do so. But the market isn’t doom and gloom, even if the headlines are. An agent can help you separate fact from fiction.
How This Impacts You
If you’re wondering how today’s low inventory affects you, it depends on if you’re selling or buying a home, or both.
- For buyers: A limited number of homes for sale means you’ll want to seriously consider all of your options, including various areas and housing types. A skilled professional will help you explore all of what’s available and find the home that best fits your needs. They can even coach you through casting a broader net if you need to expand your search.
- For sellers: Today’s low inventory actually offers incredible benefits because your house will stand out. A real estate agent can walk you through why it’s especially worthwhile to sell with these conditions. And since many sellers are also buyers, that agent is also an essential resource to help you stay up to date on the latest homes available for sale in your area so you can find your next dream home.
The low supply of homes for sale isn’t a new challenge. There are a number of long-term and short-term factors leading to the current inventory deficit. If you’re looking to make a move, connect with a real estate agent. That way you’ll have an expert on your side to explain how this impacts you and what’s happening with housing inventory in your area
If you’re hoping to buy a home this year, you’re probably paying close attention to mortgage rates. Since mortgage rates impact what you can afford when you take out a home loan – and affordability is a challenge today – it’s a good time to look at the big picture of where mortgage rates have been historically compared to where they are now. Beyond that, it’s important to understand their relationship with inflation for insights into where mortgage rates might go in the near future.
Giving Context to the Sticker Shock
Freddie Mac has been tracking the 30-year fixed mortgage rate since April of 1971. Every week, they release the results of their Primary Mortgage Market Survey, which averages mortgage application data from lenders across the country (see graph below):
Looking at the right side of the graph, mortgage rates have increased significantly since the start of last year. But even with that rise, today’s rates are still below the 52-year average. While that historical perspective is good context, buyers have gotten used to mortgage rates between 3% and 5%, which is where they’ve been over the past 15 years.
That’s important because it explains why the recent jump in rates might have you feeling sticker shock even though they’re close to their long-term average. While many buyers have adjusted to the elevated rates over the past year, a slightly lower rate would be a welcome sight. To determine if that’s a realistic possibility, it’s important to look at inflation.
Where Could Mortgage Rates Go in the Future?
The Federal Reserve has been working hard to lower inflation since early 2022. That’s significant because, historically, there’s been a connection between inflation and mortgage rates (see graph below):
This graph shows a pretty reliable relationship between inflation and mortgage rates. Looking at the left side of the graph, each time inflation moves significantly (shown in blue), mortgage rates follow suit shortly after (shown in green).
The circled portion of the graph points out the most recent spike in inflation, with mortgage rates following closely behind. As inflation has moderated a bit this year, mortgage rates haven’t yet made a similar move.
That means, if history is any guide, the market is waiting for mortgage rates to follow inflation and head back down. It’s impossible to accurately predict where mortgage rates will go for sure, but moderating inflation means mortgage rates going down in the near future would fit a well-established trend.
To understand where mortgage rates may be going, it’s helpful to look at where they’ve been in the past. There’s a clear connection between inflation and mortgage rates, and if that historical relationship holds true, the recent decline in inflation may mean good news for the future of mortgage rates and your homeownership goals.
If you remember the housing crash back in 2008, you may recall just how popular adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) were back then. And after years of being virtually nonexistent, more people are once again using ARMs when buying a home. Let’s break down why that’s happening and why this isn’t cause for concern.
Why ARMs Have Gained Popularity More Recently
This graph uses data from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) to show how the percentage of adjustable-rate mortgages has increased over the past few years:
As the graph conveys, after hovering around 3% of all mortgages in 2021, many more homeowners turned to adjustable-rate mortgages again last year. There’s a simple explanation for that increase. Last year is when mortgage rates climbed dramatically. With higher borrowing costs, some homeowners decided to take out this type of loan because traditional borrowing costs were high, and an ARM gave them a lower rate.
Why Today’s ARMs Aren’t Like the Ones in 2008
To put things into perspective, let’s remember these aren’t like the ARMs that became popular leading up to 2008. Part of what caused the housing crash was loose lending standards. Back then, when a buyer got an ARM, banks and lenders didn’t require proof of their employment, assets, income, etc. Basically, people were getting loans that they shouldn’t have been awarded. This set many homeowners up for trouble because they couldn’t pay back the loans that they never had to qualify for in the first place.
This time around, lending standards are different. Banks and lenders learned from the crash, and now they verify income, assets, employment, and more. This means today’s buyers actually have to qualify for their loans and show they’ll be able to repay them.
Archana Pradhan, Economist at CoreLogic, explains the difference between then and now:
“Around 60% of Adjustable-Rate Mortgages (ARM) that were originated in 2007 were low- or no-documentation loans . . . Similarly, in 2005, 29% of ARM borrowers had credit scores below 640 . . . Currently, almost all conventional loans, including both ARMs and Fixed-Rate Mortgages, require full documentation, are amortized, and are made to borrowers with credit scores above 640.”
In simple terms, Laurie Goodman at Urban Institute helps drive this point home by saying:
“Today’s Adjustable-Rate Mortgages are no riskier than other mortgage products and their lower monthly payments could increase access to homeownership for more potential buyers.”
If you’re worried today’s adjustable-rate mortgages are like the ones from the housing crash, rest assured, things are different this time.
And, if you’re a first-time homebuyer and you’d like to learn more about lending options that could help you overcome today’s affordability challenges, reach out to a trusted lender.
- Want to know what experts say will happen in the rest of 2023? Home prices are already appreciating again in many areas. The average of the expert forecasts shows positive price growth.
- Where mortgage rates go for the rest of the year will depend on inflation. Based on historical trends, rates are likely to ease as inflation continues to cool.
- Even though low inventory continues to be a challenge, experts project 5 million homes will still sell this year. That pace should pick up if rates come down.
When you read about the housing market in the news, you might see something about a recent decision made by the Federal Reserve (the Fed). But how does this decision affect you and your plans to buy a home? Here’s what you need to know.
The Fed is trying hard to reduce inflation. And even though there’s been 12 straight months where inflation has cooled (see graph below), the most recent data shows it’s still higher than the Fed’s target of 2%:
While you may have been hoping the Fed would stop their hikes since they’re making progress on their goal of bringing down inflation, they don’t want to stop too soon, and risk inflation climbing back up as a result. Because of this, the Fed decided to increase the Federal Funds Rate again last week. As Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Fed, says:
“We remain committed to bringing inflation back to our 2 percent goal and to keeping longer-term inflation expectations well anchored.”
Greg McBride, Senior VP, and Chief Financial Analyst at Bankrate, explains how high inflation and a strong economy play into the Fed’s recent decision:
“Inflation remains stubbornly high. The economy has been remarkably resilient, the labor market is still robust, but that may be contributing to the stubbornly high inflation. So, Fed has to pump the brakes a bit more.”
Even though a Federal Fund Rate hike by the Fed doesn’t directly dictate what happens with mortgage rates, it does have an impact. As a recent article from Fortune says:
“The federal funds rate is an interest rate that banks charge other banks when they lend one another money . . . When inflation is running high, the Fed will increase rates to increase the cost of borrowing and slow down the economy. When it’s too low, they’ll lower rates to stimulate the economy and get things moving again.”
How All of This Affects You
In the simplest sense, when inflation is high, mortgage rates are also high. But, if the Fed succeeds in bringing down inflation, it could ultimately lead to lower mortgage rates, making it more affordable for you to buy a home.
This graph helps illustrate that point by showing that when inflation decreases, mortgage rates typically go down, too (see graph below):
As the data above shows, inflation (shown in the blue trend line) is slowly coming down and, based on historical trends, mortgage rates (shown in the green trend line) are likely to follow. McBride says this about the future of mortgage rates:
“With the backdrop of easing inflation pressures, we should see more consistent declines in mortgage rates as the year progresses, particularly if the economy and labor market slow noticeably.”
What happens to mortgage rates depends on inflation. If inflation cools down, mortgage rates should go down too. Count on a real estate professional you can trust for expert advice on housing market changes and what they mean for you.
If you’re following mortgage rates because you know they impact your borrowing costs, you may be wondering what the future holds for them. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to answer that question because mortgage rates are notoriously hard to forecast.
But, there’s one thing that’s historically a good indicator of what’ll happen with rates, and that’s the relationship between the 30-Year Mortgage Rate and the 10-Year Treasury Yield. Here’s a graph showing those two metrics since Freddie Mac started keeping mortgage rate records in 1972:
As the graph shows, historically, the average spread between the two over the last 50 years was 1.72 percentage points (also commonly referred to as 172 basis points). If you look at the trend line you can see when the Treasury Yield trends up, mortgage rates will usually respond. And, when the Yield drops, mortgage rates tend to follow. While they typically move in sync like this, the gap between the two has remained about 1.72 percentage points for quite some time. But, what’s crucial to notice is that spread is widening far beyond the norm lately (see graph below):
If you’re asking yourself: what’s pushing the spread beyond its typical average? It’s primarily because of uncertainty in the financial markets. Factors such as inflation, other economic drivers, and the policy and decisions from the Federal Reserve (The Fed) are all influencing mortgage rates and a widening spread.
Why Does This Matter for You?
This may feel overly technical and granular, but here’s why homebuyers like you should understand the spread. It means, based on the normal historical gap between the two, there’s room for mortgage rates to improve today.
And, experts think that’s what lies ahead as long as inflation continues to cool. As Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist at First American, explains:
“It’s reasonable to assume that the spread and, therefore, mortgage rates will retreat in the second half of the year if the Fed takes its foot off the monetary tightening pedal . . . However, it’s unlikely that the spread will return to its historical average of 170 basis points, as some risks are here to stay.”
Similarly, an article from Forbes says:
“Though housing market watchers expect mortgage rates to remain elevated amid ongoing economic uncertainty and the Federal Reserve’s rate-hiking war on inflation, they believe rates peaked last fall and will decline—to some degree—later this year, barring any unforeseen surprises.”
If you’re either a first-time home buyer or a current homeowner thinking of moving into a home that better fits your current needs, keep on top of what’s happening with mortgage rates and what experts think will happen in the coming months.