There are a variety of factors that affect mortgage rates. Mortgage rates are tied to the fed rate, but they are also affected by supply and demand. At a time that home sales are high, mortgage rates may creep up, while sluggish home sales may prompt financial institutions to cut mortgage rates. Because the majority of people who will purchase a home will take on a mortgage, mortgage rates have a great deal of influence over home sales. The widespread affect that mortgage rates have on the economy means that everyone, from the consumer to the president of the United States, has an interest in them. While it would seem that low mortgage rates are always better, economic principles also come into play. The complicated combination of federal rates, lending institutions competing for customers, credit scores and adjustable versus fixed rate mortgages combine to make mortgage rates sometimes complicated to understand.
How do Mortgage Rates Affect Home Sales?
Mortgage rates affect the sale of homes in a variety of ways. On the most basic level, lower mortgage rates increase the amount of home a person can buy for the same monthly payment. With lower interest rates, the prospective home buyer can purchase a more expensive home. There is, however, a converse reaction. When mortgage rates are low, and homes are selling quickly, it becomes a seller’s market. This means that the price of homes may creep up, effectively cancelling out the benefit of the lower mortgage rate. As the price of homes increase, there may be less competition among buyers, and, interest rates may drop. This cycle can play out over and over, and attempting to time your loan application to the low point in a cycle is not realistic. Many lenders, however, will allow you to lock in a low rate, but agree to convert your loan application if rates lower before you close on your home.
Current Mortgage Conditions
The sub-prime lending situation has led many people to feel gun-shy about the prospects of buying a home. They hear talk about mortgage rates adjusting and fear that they can be caught in the same situation. If you are concerned about the mortgage crisis, but are considering buying a home, it helps to understand exactly what happened and how you can make sure that it doesn’t happen to you.
When you purchase a home, you have a choice between an adjustable rate and a fixed rate mortgage. The interest rate on a fixed rate mortgage is typically higher than that of an adjustable rate mortgage. However, an adjustable rate mortgage does not remain constant. While you can typically lock in a low initial rate, after a period of time it adjusts, often higher. When the rate adjusts, it changes the amount of your monthly mortgage payment.
Many people were enticed into the prospect of an adjustable rate mortgage because of the lower payments. When their mortgage rates adjusted, many attempted to refinance their mortgages into fixed rate mortgages, to lower their monthly payments. However, they often found that, because they had purchased their homes during a seller’s market, they owed more on their homes than the homes could be appraised for. This meant that it was not possible for the consumer to refinance their homes. This left the consumer with little choice, either losing the home to foreclosure, trying to arrange a short sell, or continuing to struggle under the monthly mortgage.
What you Should Consider Before Buying a Home
Before you buy a home, you should consider how current mortgage rates will affect you. The first point to realize is that the best way to insulate yourself from high mortgage rates is to have a steady income and excellent credit. With these two attributes, you will qualify for the best rates available. Even if you believe that you are years away from purchasing a home, it pays to keep an eye on your credit, pay bills on time, and keep your unsecured debt low. By doing this, when the time comes to buy a home, you will be in the best financial shape possible.
Another consideration is knowing where the market is. If the market is high, homes may be overpriced. If mortgage rates are high as well, you will be able to afford much less house than in years when mortgage rates, and the housing market, is lower. Of course, no one knows exactly where the bottom of the housing market is, and mortgage rates can only go so low, so at some point you need to commit to buying a home. To ensure your financial security at this time it makes sense to opt for a fixed rate mortgage, spend less than you actually qualify for, and have a cash cushion in your savings account.