Mortgage Rates Are Rising … But That Doesn’t Mean It’s a Bad Time to Buy Homes
Will 2022 be the year you buy a house?
If you’re hoping to buy a house in 2022, you’re probably watching the market closely.
Interest rates are on the rise. And home prices have climbed at a record pace in 2021.
Does that mean it’s a bad time to buy a house?
Not according to Jon Meyer, The Mortgage Reports loan expert and licensed MLO.
“While it’s always nice to get a better rate and have a smaller total monthly payment, if you can afford the home it’s never a bad time to buy,” Meyer says. Here’s why.
Is now a good time to buy? Key takeaways
As always, buying a home is subjective. It’s more about your personal finances than it is about the market.
Here are some key housing trends in 2022 to keep in mind:
- With home prices still rising it makes sense to buy sooner rather than later if you can afford to do so
- Home price gains should slow down in 2022, but not reverse. So it’s not worth waiting on lower home prices
- Mortgage rates are climbing. But don’t let that put you off. Even if they reach 4%, that’s still less than half the historic average
Higher mortgage rates likely on the way
After watching interest rates tumble to all-time lows in 2020 and 2021, it’s tempting to play the waiting game and see if they can fall further.
However, the Freddie Mac monthly average for 30-year fixed rates has been on the upswing over the last quarter.
“My mentor used to always tell me, ‘The person who says they know where rates will be in the future knows less than the person who knows nothing,’” Meyer said.
“He didn’t mean we can’t gauge the market or have a decent idea where rates are trending. His underlying message was you can’t chase rates.”
Do rising mortgage rates mean it’s a bad time to buy a house?
The Federal Reserve announced on Dec. 15 that American consumers should expect a series of rate hikes throughout the year.
“Even if rates jump up 1 percentage point from where they are today, they still wouldn’t be considered high interest rates historically.”
But that doesn’t mean prospective buyers should be put off by rising rates.
Historically speaking, today’s mortgage loans are still ultra-affordable. And they should stay that way throughout 2022.
“Even if rates jump up 1 percentage point from where they are today, they still wouldn’t be considered high interest rates historically. When my father bought his first house, he got a loan with an 11.5% interest rate,” Meyer added.
Home prices will keep making gains
With low mortgage rates and a squeezed inventory stoking buyer demand, housing appreciation hit never-seen-before heights in 2021.
The median U.S. sales price shot up 14.6% annually in the four-week period ending Dec. 26 and climbed to a new all-time high of $361,171, according to Redfin.
However, slowing price growth shouldn’t be misconceived as falling prices. All indicators point to rising housing values in 2022, just at a lesser pace.
“At least buyers have the benefit of low mortgage rates. But by next year, inflation may spread to more consumer goods,” said Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather.
“Even though our new year’s forecast includes more listings and slower home-price growth, buyers may feel so pinched by other expenses that they have to reduce their housing budgets.”
Is renting the answer?
Renting has its advantages, like not having to pay property taxes or homeowners insurance, especially if you’re not yet committed to where you want to live long-term.
But it’s similar to leasing a car, according to Meyer. “You pay every month to own nothing at the end of the day.”
With the supply of available for-sale listings so low and purchase prices continuing to climb, rent prices are also surging.
Now, the average renter faces even larger monthly costs and a higher rate of appreciation than homeowners.
Redfin found the average monthly rent grew to $1,985 in November, up 6.8% monthly and 20.5% annually. Comparatively, borrowers who put 5% down had a median payment of $1,551, which grew 1.1% from October and 19.9% from the year prior.
|Rental market summary
|Average monthly rent
|Median monthly mortgage payment for home buyers w/ a 5% down payment
With housing costs growing at such a rapid rate, inflation reached 6.8% in November and hit its highest level since 1982.
Many consumers were priced out of the for-sale marketplace and then turned to the rental market. That heightened demand and the anticipated elevated inflation rate will push up rent prices and could make it more financially challenging than buying.
“First inflation came for the for-sale housing market, and now it is coming for the rental market,” said Fairweather.
“Anyone who bought a home before this year can pat themselves on the back because their mortgage payments are fixed, meaning their biggest recurring expense is immune to inflation.”
Gambling on interest rates and home prices
Some buyers might be tempted to wait on lower interest rates — or slower home price growth — before they enter the market.
But if you as a home buyer wait for mortgage rates to drop to a certain range, you run the risk of:
- Losing out on the house you wanted
- Being priced out of listings you could’ve previously afforded
- Waiting on lower rates that might never materialize
Meyer provides an in-depth hypothetical on how holding out for lower mortgage rates or property prices can potentially hurt you:
“When you wait for the right interest rate, you are gambling,” he says.
Home buying example
“Let’s assume you’re a borrower qualified up to a total monthly payment of $2,500.” If today’s interest rate is 3.25%, here’s how your home buying budget might look:
- Home price: $500,000
- Down payment: 20% ($100,000)
- Monthly principal and interest payment: $1,740
- Total monthly mortgage payment: $2,360
“You are qualified and can afford the home,” Meyer says, “but you decide you’re going to wait for rates to retreat back under 3%.”
“Now, six months have passed and rates are still at 3.25% and the original home you wanted is no longer available. An identical property in the same neighborhood is listed, but the market kept its pace and that home is listed at $530,000.”
Thanks to the higher price tag on that home, your monthly payments have risen and you’re almost maxing out your budget. Your down payment amount has risen, too.
- Home price: $530,000
- Down payment: 20% ($106,000)
- Monthly principal and interest payment: $1,845
- Total monthly mortgage payment: $2,497
And this is assuming you haven’t taken on any additional debt in the meantime, adds Meyer. “If you have an additional $1,000 balance on your credit card and can’t pay it off, you no longer qualify for the home.”
Risks of waiting to buy
“In terms of the price of the house, I have personally seen clients price themselves out of the market they were targeting just hoping housing prices were going to fall a bit and instead they continued to rise.”
“Then there is the other scenario that can happen,” he says. “Rates never go down and continue to rise.”
If mortgage rates go high enough, this could price you out of your qualified monthly payment and the home you want to buy.
For these reasons, Meyer cautions against chasing lower rates and/or lower home prices.
“It not only harms your wallet,” he says, “but more importantly, your ability to qualify for the house you want.
This underscores Meyer’s overarching point that now is always the right time to buy if you’re ready and can afford it.
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Source: The mortgage reports
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