Mortgage Rates — Hike or Hype?

by Real estate financingMission+
3 minutes read

As the Fed prepares to raise interest rates, some fear homebuyers might get discouraged and cause the housing market to slow. Others speculate that increasing rates will create even more demand from buyers trying to lock into cheaper loans. Which is it?
Because Redfin tracks buyers requesting home tours across the country, we can look at past rate changes and see how our customers reacted. Even better, we can look at how they’ve reacted to this year’s changes to get a sense of what’s to come.
As it turns out, buyers have strong reactions to the speed of rate hikes more than the rate hikes themselves.
In late June 2013, rates on a 30-year mortgage increased from 3.9 percent to 4.5 percent, the largest weekly increase in more than 31 years. Redfin saw many homebuyers halt their home searches almost immediately. By the following week, the number of Redfin customers requesting home tours had fallen 15 percent.
But buyers came back…
Mortgage rates kept rising throughout the summer, but buyers came back. By mid July, when rates topped 4.5 percent, Redfin data showed demand for home tours had returned to where it had been when rates were below 4 percent two weeks earlier. Even though a home loan was costlier, 2013 was the biggest year for residential real estate sales since the downturn.
What about now?
Mortgage rates again are topping 4 percent at the heart of the summer selling season after months of near-record lows. This time, however, the increase has been gradual, rising from 3.7 percent in early May to just 4 percent currently.
So far, Redfin is not seeing buyers stepping back. On the contrary, we see a sense of urgency with buyers, who are touring more. In the second half of June, when rates were at 4 percent or more, buyer requests for tours increased 4 percent. All signs point to continued rate increases this year, but the Fed has promised that they will be gradual.
High prices, low inventory – there are plenty of  things that might short circuit even the most motivated homebuyer this year, but the data tells us that fear of a housing downturn based on a mortgage rate increase is more hype.
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