Purchasing Power: An increase in interest rates by 1% translates to an 11% drop in the home a buyer is able to afford.
The experts and prognosticators may have had their timing off, but they collectively understood that it was not a matter of “if” interest rates would rise, but “when” they would rise. With the massive manipulation of the monetary policy by the Federal Reserve, the United States has been in economic, uncharted waters, making the art of forecasting rates not an exact science.
At this point, the pressure on interest rates to rise is real. But, after more than a decade of extremely affordable rates, everybody has become accustom to these affordable levels. It is time for a brief history lesson:
- 1981 = 18%
- 1990 = 10%
- 2000 = 8%
- 2007 = 6.5%
- Today = 4.5%
Yes, 3.5% is a better rate; however, 4.5% is still a very low rate in historical context. Buyers should not wait for another drop. Instead, they should cash in on today’s mortgage rates. These low levels are an absolute gift based upon the economic history book.
Buyers must understand that the longer they wait to purchase, the greater the risk that rates will rise. As they rise, a buyer’s purchasing power erodes considerably the higher then climb. If mortgage rates climbed by 1% from where they are today, buyers looking for a $2,500 monthly payment would see their purchase power drop from $616,750 to $550,375; that’s a $66,375 drop in purchase price. For buyers looking for a $3,500 monthly payment, it drops from $863,500 to $770,500, a drop of $93,000. And, for buyers looking at a $4,500 monthly payment, it drops from $1,110,125 to $990,625, plunging by nearly $120,000.
Keep in mind, 5.5% is still a very low rate. The trouble is there are younger buyers in the marketplace who have never experienced rates above 5%. The housing market is not going to implode. It will not be the end of the world. But, it will eat into affordability and purchasing power. That 1% increase in mortgage rates will result in an 11% drop is what a buyer is able to afford.
With an improving economy, the new tax law, trade reform, and a new infrastructure plan, expect rates to rise. Buyers should not sit on the sideline and wait for them to drop. If they do, they will watch their purchase power crumble.