Much ado has been made over the impending doom of rising mortgage interest rates as response to the Fed raising its benchmark rate this month. If I had a dollar for every “Buy now before rates get too high” post on Facebook from Realtors around the country, I wouldn’t be rich or anything, but I could buy a decent lunch or dinner. I certainly hope, for their sake, that they result in business coming their way. However, in the big scheme of things, I think it is relatively short-sighted and they would actually benefit more from the rising interest rates they think are going to be a market killer.
There, I said it. Rising mortgage interest rates are a good thing for Realtors in the long-term.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating for Carter-era rates or anything. That would be terrible and would definitely be a market killer. What I am saying is that a return to 2001-2006 rates would be a good thing, in my opinion. So, here’s my case for higher interest rates…
Higher Interest Rates Indicate a Healthier Economy
The quantitative easing that has resulted in the low Fed rates since the economic downturn began in ’07-’08 is neither sustainable nor healthy for the overall economy. The Federal Reserve should not be in the business of essentially printing money to prop up the economy. This is not intended as a political statement, but fact based on testimony from multiple Fed Chairs and members of the Board. The fact that rates are increasing is a sign that the Fed believes the economy is on the mend.
A healthy economy should be a no-brainer for a Realtor to see the benefit in, right? The healthier the economy the more jobs created. The more jobs created, the more people who can qualify for loans. The more loans qualified for, the more sales. You do the math. In most markets there is a ratio of jobs created to how the market can handle rising mortgage interest rates. For example, for every X,000 jobs created, interest rates could go up Y% without negatively affecting the housing market. If you have the interest and a state or local real estate economist, feel free to inquire about it for your market. Regardless, a healthy overall economy typically equates to a healthy real estate economy.
Higher Interest Rates Bring More Flexible Financing Options
Let’s take a total hypothetical here. If you had the option of investing in a mortgage not that paid 4% interest or in an index fund that was currently blowing through the roof, which would you choose? Exactly. That’s one of the many reasons we have been so reliant on government-sponsored entities over the past decade. For the record, if the recent downturn in the housing market didn’t teach us that reliance on government backing is bad, I don’t know what will. We bankrupted Fannie and Freddie.
As mortgage interest rates rise, private money returns to the market. Because, historically, mortgage debt is a relatively safe bet, the returns don’t have to be as sky-high as the Dow Jones these days. As private money returns to the mortgage market, more flexible and creative loan products become available, we become less reliant on government backing, and a trickle-down effect of great things happens.
Higher Interest Rates Means More Moving
Again, let’s play a hypothetical game. Let’s just say that you wanted to purchase a home. You just got married and you are looking to start your new life together in your first home. Sure, you’ve talked about kids, but it’s still in the future for you. All you really need is a home for the two of you. In a 5.5%-7% interest rate environment, you buy a home for just the two of you. On the other hand, in a 3.75%-4% interest rate environment, for the same amount of monthly payment, you can go ahead and buy a larger home for when the kid or kids do come. Which do you do?
Higher interest rates keep that first-time buyer from skipping the first-time market altogether and moving straight into the move-up market. Now, that first-time buyer stays a first-time buyer and, in a few years, they become a move-up buyer. So, for the Realtor, that one transaction just turned into three if they play their cards right. Otherwise, in a low rate environment, the buyer buys a bigger home and stays there longer.
Higher Interest Rates Means More Inventory
Here in Houston, we have a serious shortage of home inventory. I know we are not alone in that condition nationwide. The example above should illustrate the point of this section. As more people move more often instead of staying in their homes longer, more inventory is available. More inventory leads to more level markets. More level markets lead to more opportunities for buyers. More level markets lead to healthier price appreciation rates instead of spiking prices. All of these are obviously good and lead us right back to our first point about a healthier overall economy.
So, there you have it. My take on why rising mortgage interest rates are good. I’d love to hear your thoughts.