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The quickening pace of the housing recovery has surprised homebuyers and housing pundits alike, as year-over-year home prices have increased more than 20 percent in a few markets. Now there are concerns that rising mortgage rates, which closed in on 4.5 percent last week, will quash demand. What worries me is the lack of inventory, and the potential persistence of that lack of inventory. If we have a lack of inventory continuing and we see this price growth continue, it makes it less affordable, and homeownership opportunities diminish for more people.
U.S. home prices jumped 12.2 percent in May from a year ago, the most in seven years. The increase suggests the housing recovery is strengthening. Real estate data provider CoreLogic said Tuesday that home prices rose from a year ago in 48 states. They fell only in Delaware and Alabama. And all but three of the 100 largest cities reported price gains.
Prices rose 26 percent in Nevada to lead all states. It was followed by California (20.2 percent), Arizona (16.9 percent), Hawaii (16.1 percent) and Oregon (15.5 percent). CoreLogic also says prices rose 2.6 percent in May from April, the fifteenth straight month-over-month increase. Steady hiring and low mortgage rates have encouraged more Americans to buy homes. Greater demand, a limited number of homes for sale and fewer foreclosures have pushed prices higher. Prices are still 20 percent below the peak reached in April 2006, according to CoreLogic.
A recent, sharp rise in mortgage-interest rates has raised concerns about whether Orlando’s robust housing recovery will soften as home loans become more expensive. Since the beginning of last year, the median price of existing-home sales in the core Orlando market has increased 37 percent. Three factors have helped fuel the jump in prices: a thin inventory of home listings, an ample supply of investment buyers – and historically low interest rates. But mortgage rates have suddenly shot up. Last week, the average rate nationwide for a 30-year mortgage jumped to 4.46 percent from 3.93 percent – the biggest one-week increase since 1987 and the highest rate since July 2011, according to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. “We do think that, as rates go higher, there will be additional affordability issues,” said Brad Hunter, a Florida-based economist for the real-estate-research firm MetroStudy Inc. “Everyone is getting nervous now as the Fed is taking away the Kool-Aid bowl soon,” he said. Rates started moving up after the Federal Reserve said on June 19 that it might end its economic-stimulation program by the end of this year or in 2014.
Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages surged this week to their highest levels in two years, and the rate on the 30-year loan jumped by the most in 26 years. The increase is evidence that the Federal Reserve’s comments about possibly reducing its bond purchases are already affecting consumers. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average on the 30-year loan jumped to 4.46 percent. That’s up from 3.93 percent last week and is the highest since July 2011. The increase was also the biggest since April 1987. The rate on the 15-year mortgage rose to 3.50 percent from 3.04 percent last week. That’s the highest since August 2011. Interest rates jumped after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said on June 19 that the Fed could slow its bond purchases later this year if the economy strengthens. Since Bernanke’s comments, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note has risen to a two-year high. Mortgage rates tend to track the yield on the Treasury note. Mortgage rates remain low by historical standards. But the sudden jump in rates could make home buying more expensive with each passing week. A buyer taking out a $200,000 mortgage at a 3.35 percent rate would pay $881 a month, according to Bankrate.com. The monthly mortgage payment jumps to $1,008 a month at a rate of 4.46 percent. That’s an increase of $127 a month, which over 30 years adds $45,720 to the cost of the loan. The figures don’t include taxes and insurance.
Homebuyers who were waiting to lock in a mortgage rate – hopeful that the recent increases may decline a bit – could be out of luck. Freddie Mac’s popular weekly mortgage rate analysis noted a slight drop last week; but according to Matthew Graham, a rate strategist for Mortgage News Daily, Freddie Mac does its analysis over three days: Monday through Wednesday. On Thursday and Friday, rates bumped higher. Friday, in fact, had the highest one-day increase in average mortgage rates on record. “Taken together, this is the worst week for mortgage rates we have on record,” Graham said in an article. “Today is one of two times in the past 10 years where the average borrowing rate for top tier scenarios moved up by at least a quarter of a point.”The move led many advisors to suggest that homebuyers lock in rates now. While predicting the direction of rates continues to be as much art as science, Mike Owners, a partner at Horizon Financial Inc., suggested that rates wouldn’t drop again “without a total meltdown in stocks and some sort of tape bomb from left field.”