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Low Interest Rates Continue – For Now!

After a disappointing federal jobs market report at the beginning of April, interest rates actually dipped again, skirting historic lows


Interesting post from Scott at The rate rise consensus has swung back and forth.  Rates will rise …rates will stay low.  Rates are staying low in the short term with increases likely in the long term. How’s that for hedging my bets?


How Long Will Low Interest Rates Continue to Help Buyers?

Even in the super expensive Boston area, rising prices may be not necessarily be the biggest threat to buyers in finding a home they can afford.

Instead, an equal or even greater threat over the next few years may be the likelihood that the low-interest-rate gravy train will finally come to an end, experts say.

Overall, low interest rates have kept mortgage payments low, even as prices in a number of hot Boston-area neighborhoods and suburbs have blown past their price records of a decade ago, real estate stats show.

After a disappointing federal jobs market report at the beginning of April, interest rates actually dipped again, skirting historic lows.

Yet with the Federal Reserve having already signaled its plans to consider boosting the federal funds rate by as early as this summer, the writing is on the wall, said Svenja Gudell, Zillow’s senior director of economic research.

That, in turn, could have major implications for home prices and affordability, here and across the country.

“I don’t think this is the trend,” Gudell said of the recent interest rate dip. “We will see mortgage rates pick up in the long run.”

So how much of a difference do those killer low rates make when buying a house?

The prime rate on a 30-year-mortgage, as of April 9, was 3.66 percent, according to federal mortgage giant Freddie Mac, which surveys banks around the country.

If you took out a $500,000 mortgage to buy a three-bedroom house in Waltham, your monthly payments, at that rate, would amount to $2,290, according to Bankrate’s mortgage calculator.

Now let’s boost the interest rate to 6 or 7 percent. These are rates that were common on mortgages back in the 2000s and were not considered particularly high, either.

At 6 percent, the monthly payment on that Waltham house increases to $2,997 – a 30.8 percent increase.

Boost the rate up another point to 7 percent and the monthly payment jumps again, to $3,326, or a 45 percent increase.

As rates rise, buyers, already scrambling to keep up with rising prices could find themselves with diminishing buying power, at least for a time, anyway.

What happens after that will depend on what prices wind up doing.

In theory, as interest rates rise, sellers will eventually be forced to lower their prices or wind up missing the mark with buyers.

“As rates move, we will see some top down pressure on prices, especially in areas where housing is really too expensive,” said Gudell, the Zillow economist, pointing to Boston, San Francisco, and other high-priced markets.

Still, she doesn’t see rising rates triggering a housing crash, either.

There will be time for the market – and buyers and sellers – to adjust as well, Gudell believes. Rates won’t soar overnight, but are more likely to slowly edge up over time.

“I think the increase will be a gradual one,” she said. “At the end of this year, we will already start to see higher mortgage rates, but we are not going to see rates increase to 4.5 percent or 5 percent right away.”