Here's how Americans are Tackling Turbulence in the Changing Housing Market

Here's how Americans are Tackling Turbulence in the Changing Housing Market
Cover Image Source: Real estate | Pexels | Photo by Binyamin Mellish

As the American housing market is being jostled by turbulence caused by rising rent and property prices, recent data from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) suggests a nuanced picture. While there's a noticeable dip in refinancing activities, prospective homebuyers appear undeterred by a slight uptick in mortgage rates.

Pexels | Photo by Jessica Bryant
Homebuyers appear undeterred by an uptick in mortgage rates (representational image) | Pexels | Photo by Jessica Bryant

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The MBA's Refinance Index witnessed a 7 percent decrease for the week ending January 19, 2024, compared to the previous week, marking an 8 percent decline from the same period a year ago. The average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for properties up to $726,200 inched up from 6.75 percent to 6.78 percent. This marginal increase might be a contributing factor to the slowdown in refinancing. Joel Kan, the MBA's deputy chief economist, notes, "Refinance applications declined over the week and remained at low levels. There is still little incentive for homeowners to refinance with rates at these levels."

In contrast to the retreat in refinancing, mortgage applications surged by almost 4 percent, indicating a robust interest among potential homebuyers. Despite a slightly lower increase compared to the previous week, this data suggests that individuals are willing to navigate the elevated rates to make a foray into the housing market.

Pexels | Photo by The Lazy Artist Gallery
Mortgage rates of houses (representational image) | Pexels | Photo by The Lazy Artist Gallery

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Kan points out the encouraging trend, stating, "Mortgage rates increased slightly last week, but there continues to be an upward trend in purchase activity." The surge in applications is particularly notable for conventional and Federal Housing Administration loans.

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Daryl Fairweather, chief economist at real estate company Redfin, offers insights into potential factors influencing these trends. She suggests that adverse weather conditions in the current month might have put a damper on the housing market's pace. However, Fairweather emphasizes that this impact appears more pronounced on purchases than refinancing activities. "The bad weather this month has slowed the housing market a bit," she explains, pointing to a possible seasonal slowdown in purchases. This observation highlights the intricate dance between external factors and the housing market's resilience.

Pexels | Photo by PhotoMIX Company
Adverse weather conditions have slowed down the housing market (representational image) | Pexels | Photo by PhotoMIX Company

Mortgage rates, which reached a peak of 8 percent in October 2022, have been on a downward trajectory since. The Federal Reserve's efforts to combat inflation played a role in the two-decade highs seen in rates. With inflation showing signs of slowing to 3.4 percent last month, and the Federal Reserve signaling a potential halt in rate hikes, the economic landscape is undergoing shifts.

However, the reported fluctuations in mortgage rates, such as the data from Freddie Mac indicating a rate of 6.60 percent as of January 18, invite scrutiny. Fairweather points out the nuances in measurement methodologies, stating, "The Freddie Mac survey tries to compare apples to apples," referring to the effort to control for variables like credit score and mortgage type. On the other hand, other data may provide a more generalized view.

While refinancing activities take a breather, the resilience in mortgage applications signals an enduring interest in homeownership. As prospective homeowners weigh their options and adapt to changing conditions, the American housing market remains a dynamic arena where many factors influence decisions.

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