Mortgage rates are climbing, but...are still near historic lows

Dated: 11/12/2018

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Fourth Generation Realtor

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Mortgage rates remain near historic lows

Yes, mortgage rates have been on the rise. But not to the extent most people think. According to Freddie Mac’s weekly Primary Mortgage Market Surveypublished on Nov. 1, the rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage on that date was 1.33 percent above the lowest conventional rate posted over the past 47 years.

A little history may put things into perspective. Freddie Mac began tracking the cost of the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage on April 4, 1971. At that time the rate was 7.31 percent. Rates were rising at the time and continued to climb until Oct. 1, 1981, when the cost of mortgage money hit an all-time high of 18.5 percent. By the time March 1987 rolled around, the rate had fallen by more than half, to 9.04 percent. The rate then ticked up into the 10 percent range and hovered there for just over three-and-a-half years before falling into the “nines” in December 1990.

Rates then began their downward trajectory, eventually hitting the lowest-on-record rate of 3.5 percent in March 2013. The rate then bounced around in the “threes” before rising to 4.15 percent in late January of this year. The Nov. 1 survey pegged the rate at 4.83 percent. So, to what extent does the difference between the record-low rate of 3.5 percent and today’s rate of 4.83 percent affect buyers?

The answer is slightly. The monthly principal and interest payment for a $150,000 loan at 3.5 percent is $674. Bump the rate to 4.83 percent and the payment rises to $790. That $116 increase would require additional income of around $387 per month to keep the amount of the payment to no more than 30 percent of the buyer’s monthly gross income. A raise of $2.23 per hour, which translates to roughly $4,650 annually, would do the trick for the typical wage earner.

Have you asked yourself how buyers, sellers and Realtors managed to conduct business with rates approaching 19 percent in 1981? I had been licensed for seven years at that time and quickly learned that few buyers could qualify at the record-high rate. The solution was to employ a hybrid financing strategy. At the time, FHA, VA and conventional loans were fully assumable without qualifying, so the first order of business was to utilize the seller’s existing mortgage for part of the financing. (Woe be the seller who had no loan on his home.) 

As an example, a buyer who wanted to purchase a $100,000 home would offer to assume the seller’s existing loan of say $60,000 at 8 percent. The remaining $40,000 needed to complete the purchase would be in the form of a 5 percent, or $5,000 down payment, and a new $35,000 mortgage at 18.5 percent. If the blended rate of the two loans didn’t exceed around 12 percent (our blended rate in this scenario is 11.9 percent), buyers would flock to the closing table.

Here’s a shocker: A borrower who took out a $100,000 loan at 18.5 percent in 1981 would have had a principal and interest payment of $1,548 per month. Even more shocking is the fact that of that amount, $1,542 went to cover the interest, with just $8 going toward paying down the loan.

It’s interesting to note that assumption rules were so lax prior to 1982, buyers who assumed loans were only required to inform the lenders that they were the new owners. Lenders would then change the name on the account and issue a new coupon book. No qualifying, no questions, no nuthin’. Oh, what a time!

The bottom line is that even if rates rise a bit more, buyers are still lucky to be able to borrow money at such historically low rates.

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Michelle Foreman

Michelle Foreman isn't one to focus solely on getting the job done but instead on getting the job done RIGHT. Michelle, a Fourth Generation Realtor, is certified as both a Senior Real Estate Speciali....

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