Why Higher Interest Rates Aren’t Scary

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By Gino Blefari, President & CEO, Intero Real Estate Services, Inc.

Pull out quoteTo be clear: no one is advocating for higher interest rates. But we’re about to venture down a path of thinking about what the world looks like with rates that will be higher than the lows we’ve come to expect these past few years.

In today’s market, borrowers with 5% interest rates are running to refinance – and saving thousands of dollars in the process. When put in historical context, this is astonishing. Many of us have worked through markets with double-digit rates in decades past. 3.75% on a long-term mortgage did not exist.

But experience shows us markets are cyclical. There is a bottom. We all know it’s coming. And although the Fed hasn’t indicated it will sharply raise the key short-term rates that are tied to
mortgages any time soon, it will raise those rates at some point as the economy improves.

Maybe that’s not such a scary thing.

An article in CNNMoney this week argues why higher mortgage rates will help the housing
market rather than hurt it.

I think it depends on the market you’re talking about – as with all things real estate, generalizations are rarely unflappable.

But mortgage rates indeed have been rising – the latest average on the 30-year fixed was 3.63%, the highest its been since the week of August 23, according to Freddie Mac. Let’s think about what that means for current markets.

In many markets, recovery over the last year has turned to growth mode. In Silicon Valley, many of our local markets are already back at peak pre-recession levels. What’s driving it? Job growth and demand.

Sure, low rates have been great. But they’re not the sole driver.

In our markets and others including Washington, D.C. and several other California markets, the bigger obstacle would be in supply. There just aren’t enough homes on the market to serve new buyers or spur move-up activity from existing owners.

Upward movement in interest rates may actually incite even more demand in these markets as buyers start to feel pressure to move quickly. In these cases, higher rates may actually be an incentive that fuels market activity and growth.

We’ll find out soon enough how higher rates will impact our markets. In the meantime, if your credit is good it’s still incredibly cheap to borrow money for housing. If you want to take advantage, it’s time to get moving.


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