Many of us are concerned about how the housing market will fare as interest rates head up and a looming recession takes hold. Will home values crash as they did during the Great Recession or will they simply stop rising and settle in at their current values.
While no one can predict the future, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell expressed his thoughts on what homebuyers and homeowners may see going forward at the Federal Reserve Open Markets Committee last week.
At the meeting, Powell acknowledged that mortgage rates have gone up dramatically in the last few months, in fact they have doubled from 3% in August 2021 to 6 percent now according to Bankrate’s national survey of lenders.
“We’re well aware that mortgage rates have moved up a lot, and you’re seeing a changing housing market,” Powell said in response to a question from Bankrate after the meeting. “We’re watching it to see what will happen. How much will it really affect residential investment? Not really sure. How much will it affect housing prices? Not really sure. We’re watching that quite carefully.”
What about home prices?
Unlike the Great Recession, most economists do not expect house prices to drop sharply, at least not across the country. Some areas may see price drops while prices in other areas may continue to rise for a bit longer. The supply of homes for sale is still at record lows and while higher interest rates have slowed sales a bit, demand for housing is still outpacing supply.
According to the National Association of Realtors, while rising mortgage rates have slowed home sales, the median price is still climbing. The median price of homes sold nationally climbed to a record $407,600 in May, which is up 14.8% from May 2021.
“It’s still a very tight market,” Powell said during the press conference. “Prices may keep going up for a while, even in a world where rates are up. It’s a complicated situation.”
Unfortunately, due to the sharp price increases in homes over the past two years, affordability has become a major issue for first-time home buyers. New buyers don’t have an equity cushion which can be a major help.
“I would say if you’re a homebuyer, or a young person looking to buy a home, you need a bit of a reset,” Powell warned at the press conference.
The Fed doesn’t control mortgage rates directly, but it does set the federal funds rate which has a major impact on mortgage and other loan rates. At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic the Fed dropped that rate to zero but has been raising it as inflation has started to take hold. The Fed has raised the rates 3 times in 2022 and recently bumped it up by a 0.75 percentage point increase.
What can homebuyers do?
While buying a new home can be a challenge these days, here are a few tips to help lessen the pain:
Shop your mortgage: Both rates and fees can vary between lenders, so it is a good idea to shop around for your mortgage. Get rate quotes from at least five different lenders and make sure you are comparing the fees as well.
Search for a loan with low down payment: Coming up with a down payment can be a major issue for first time home buyers. With the median price of homes around $400,000, most home buyers will have to come up with at least a $40,000 down payment (which is only 10 percent) or $80,000 if they need to find 20% for a down payment.
This can be a huge obstacle to overcome on the road to homeownership. You may be able to get around a huge down payment if you qualify for a mortgage backed by the Federal Housing Administration or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. FHA and VA loans require a smaller down payment and may have looser standards regarding getting approved.
In many cases, a VA loan may not require a down payment at all and FHA loans can have a down payment requirement that is as low as 3.5 percent.
Look at fixer uppers: If you have the skills and patience, a fixer upper can be a great way to find a home that is affordable. According to a Bankrate survey done earlier this year, 21 percent of respondents said they were looking at fixer uppers. However, this strategy is not for everyone, if you are not all that handy and like things done quickly, this may not be the best strategy for you.
Shop more affordable areas: While not an ideal solution, you may have to consider other neighborhoods or even another state if homes are too expensive in your area. California is a prime example, according to the National Association of Realtors, the median home price in Silicon Valley is roughly $1.88 million, in San Francisco, that price is $1.38 million, and in Orange County it recently hit $1.26 million.
If possible, consider other neighborhoods or even moving to a more affordable state if you can work from anywhere.