Most recently, we have experienced an uptick in market activity. In fact, in King and Snohomish counties we saw a 53% increase in pending sales from December to January. While it is seasonally normal to see activity increase at the first of the year, it was 16% higher than the previous January. This increase is being driven by multiple factors, such as our thriving economy and job market, price acceleration softening, and the recent decrease in interest rates.
Currently, rates are as low as 4.5% for a 30-year fixed conventional mortgage – 0.75 points down from the fourth quarter of 2018. In fact, the interest rate in November was the highest we’ve seen in five years! The current rate level is the lowest we have seen in a year. This is meaningful because the rule of thumb is that for every one-point increase in interest rate, a buyer loses ten percent in purchase power. For example, if a buyer is shopping for a $500,000 home and the rate increases by a point during their search, in order to keep the same monthly payment, the buyer would need to decrease their purchase price to $450,000. Conversely, for every decrease in interest rate, a buyer can increase their purchase price and keep the same monthly mortgage payment.
Why is this important to pay attention to? Affordability! If you take the scenario I just described and apply it to the link above, you can see that the folks who choose to jump into the market this year will enjoy an interest cost savings when securing their mortgage. This lasts the entire life of the loan and can have a huge impact on the monthly cash flow of a household. This cost savings is also coupled with a slow-down in home-price appreciation. Complete year-over-year, prices are up around 8% in both King and Snohomish counties, but note that from 2017 to 2018 we saw a 14% increase. Price appreciation is adjusting to more normal levels and is predicted to increase 4-6% in 2019 over 2018.
As we head into spring market, the time of year we see the most inventory become available, the interest rates will have a positive influence on both buyers and sellers. Naturally, buyers will enjoy the cost savings, but sellers will enjoy a larger buyer pool looking at their homes due to the demand the lower rates are creating. Further, would-be sellers who are also buyers that secured a rate as low as 3.75% via a purchase or re-finance in 2015-2017, will consider giving up that lower rate for the right move-up house now that rates are not as big of a jump up as they were during the second half of 2018.
This recent decrease in rate is making the move-up market come alive. What is great about this, is that it opens up inventory for the first-time buyer and helps complete the market cycle. First-time buyers are abundant right now as the Millennial generation is gaining in age and making big life transitions such as buying real estate. According to Nerd Wallet, 49% of all Millennials have a home purchase in their 5-year plan.
Will these rates last forever? Simply put, no! According to Matthew Gardner, Windermere’s Chief Economist, rates should increase into the 5’s in 2019. While still staying well below the 30-year average of 6.85%, increases are increases, and securing today’s rate could be hugely beneficial from a cost-saving perspective. Just like the 1980’s when folks were securing mortgages at 18%, the people that lock down on a rate from today will be telling these stories to their grandchildren. Note the 30-year average – it is reasonable to think that rates closer to that must be in our future at some point.
So what does this mean for you? If you have considered making a move, or even your first purchase, today’s rates are a huge plus in helping make that transition more affordable. If you are a seller, bear in mind that today’s interest rate market is creating strong buyer demand, providing a healthy buyer pool for your home. As a homeowner who has no intention to make a move, now might be the time to consider a refinance. What is so exciting about these refinances, is that it is not only possible to reduce your monthly payment, but also your term, depending on which rate you would be coming down from.
If you would like additional information on how today’s interest rates pertain to your housing goals, please contact me. I would be happy to educate you on homes that are available, do a market analysis on your current home, and/or put you in touch with a reputable mortgage professional to help you crunch numbers. Real estate success is rooted in being accurately informed, and it is my goal to help empower you to make sound decisions for you and your family.