The Impact of Increasing Mortgage Rates on the Housing Market
Mortgage rates have surged to the highest level in over two decades, resulting in a divided housing market. Existing home sales have experienced a sharp decline, while new homes are selling swiftly due to the scarcity of available options. The Federal Reserve’s aggressive interest rate hikes over the past year have led to significantly more expensive mortgages, dampening the housing market. In July, existing home sales were down almost 17% compared to the previous year, according to the National Association of Realtors. The average interest rate on a 30-year mortgage reached 7.23%, the highest since 2001. Consequently, monthly payments on a $300,000 loan are now approximately $330 higher than last summer.
Cathy Trevino, chair of the Houston Association of Realtors, acknowledges that the interest rates are causing many potential buyers to wait on the sidelines, especially first-time homebuyers who may regret not purchasing a property last year. Those who have recently bought or refinanced a home likely have a mortgage with a considerably lower interest rate, making selling an expensive proposition. Consequently, many American homeowners are choosing to stay put, resulting in a constrained supply of homes.
Despite the decline in existing home sales, prices have not shown significant signs to break or decline. In July, the average price of an existing home was nearly $407,000, representing a 1.9% increase compared to the previous year. More than one-third of homes were sold above their asking price last month, causing significant challenges for buyers and fostering a competitive marketplace.
Michael Fischer, president of the Atlanta Realtors Association, highlights the difficulties faced by buyers, who find themselves entangled in multiple bidding wars due to the intense competition in the housing market. The situation is proving to be a challenge for families like the one Fischer has been assisting in their search for a house over the span of several months.
Overall, the rise in mortgage rates is reshaping the housing market, creating a split-screen effect with contrasting trends in existing and new home sales.
The housing market landscape is changing as buyers face unexpected challenges and new opportunities. With high demand and limited supply of existing homes, many are turning to new construction. In fact, sales of new homes in July surged by over 31% compared to the previous year.
While prices have slightly increased recently, they have generally been on a downward trend since the start of the year. As a result, approximately 25% of builders have resorted to offering discounts to boost sales. These incentives have been supported by falling material costs and a shift towards designing slightly smaller houses to maintain affordability.
Interestingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has played a role in redefining buyer preferences. In the early days, when individuals were confined to their homes, the demand for more space was paramount. However, the average size of new houses has now decreased from about 2,350 square feet to approximately 2,200 square feet, as buyers prioritize other factors.
In this evolving market, lower-priced housing options such as condos and townhomes are gaining popularity. The appeal lies not only in reduced maintenance requirements but also in improved affordability. Additionally, the appreciation rates of these property types are now on par, if not better, than those of single-family homes, adding to their allure.
The housing market continues to shift and adapt as buyers navigate through changing circumstances. The key lies in staying informed and considering the evolving trends to make informed decisions.