Hotter inflation keeps mortgage rates higher, but housing inventory building: Fannie Mae

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Fannie Mae says home prices could drop as inventory builds and if borrowing rates stay higher for longer.  (iStock)

There’s no relief in sight for high borrowing costs as interest rate cuts are pushed further into the distance. Still, a surge in housing inventory could give buyers more options, Fannie Mae said in a report.

Mortgage rates have ticked above 7% in recent weeks and that, combined with high home prices, has rendered housing unaffordable for many. Fannie Mae is still forecasting for mortgage rates to decrease later this year to 6.6%, but borrowing costs will only drop meaningfully once the Fed dials back interest rates. That won’t come until the central bank is confident that inflation will reach a 2% target rate. 

The inflation data registered this year has been higher than the Fed expected. The latest reading of the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, excluding food and energy prices—a key metric the Federal Reserve tracks to measure inflation—increased by 3.7% after rising to 2% in the fourth quarter, raising concerns that inflation may be headed in the wrong direction. Fannie Mae has readjusted its expectations on inflation and now expects the Consumer Price Index to end 2024 at a 3.1% annual rate, compared to the previously projected 2.5%.   

“While we still expect economic growth and inflation to moderate going forward – and, thus, for mortgage rates to drift downward – interest rates existing in a ‘higher for longer’ state seems to be an increasingly real possibility in the eyes of market participants, as well as some homebuyers and sellers,” Fannie Mae Vice President, Economic and Strategic Research Hamilton Fout said. “While we’ve recently seen evidence that some potential home sellers are becoming more acclimated to the higher mortgage rate environment and putting their homes on the market, the recent move upward in rates is yet another headwind to the recovery of home sales, and it intensifies long-standing affordability challenges for consumers.”

The silver lining for the housing market is that supply is expected to build as home sales lag, which “should help gradually thaw housing inventory and contribute to decelerating home price growth,” Fannie Mae said. 

Homebuyers can find the best mortgage rate by shopping around and comparing your options. You can visit an online marketplace like Credible to compare rates, choose your loan term and get preapproved with multiple lenders at once.

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Home prices forecasted to keep rising

Fannie Mae has readjusted its home price projection and forecasts upwards, but there are signs that gains are slowing. Home prices are forecasted to increase 4.8% annually in 2024 and 1.5% in 2025.

Home prices are now 6.4% above their level this time last year, up from the 6% increase registered in January, according to the latest S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller national home price index report.  Across the nation, home prices increased 0.6% month-over-month after dipping the previous month. This annual and monthly growth in home prices comes as homebuyers struggle with affordability issues caused by high mortgage rates and a lack of housing supply.  

“Home price growth pivoted in February, as the impact of the January 2023 Home Price Index bottom finally faded,” CoreLogic Chief Economist Selma Hepp said in a statement. “As a result, the U.S. should begin to see slowing annual home price gains moving forward.”  

If you’re looking to become a homeowner, you could still find the best mortgage rates by shopping around. Visit Credible to compare your options without affecting your credit score.

MILLENNIALS ARE DESPERATE TO BUY A HOME, MOST WILLING TO PAY A MORTGAGE RATE ABOVE 7%: SURVEY

Here’s how much homebuyers need to earn 

Homebuyers need to earn more today to afford a home. Based on the current interest rate of 7.22% over a 30-year mortgage, buyers today would need to earn an annual income of roughly $120,000, plus a 10% down payment, to afford a home, according to the Clever Real Estate report. However, the average American household earns about $45,000 less than that, and most first-time buyers can’t afford a 10% down payment.

Based on the median annual salary and a 10% down payment, most first-time buyers can afford a home priced at about $207,529 — 38% less than the current median-priced home. Increasing the down payment to 20% lowers the salary threshold to $98,202, but saving that amount could take years, the Clever report said. 

Moreover, higher mortgage rates and home prices mean that 20% of Americans spend roughly 30% of their paychecks on monthly home loan payments, and 10% spend more than half of their pay, according to a recent NewHomesMates.com survey. Homeownership is considered affordable if households spend at most 28% of their monthly income on housing costs. The survey said those ready to take the plunge have had to sink a larger portion of their paychecks into mortgage payments and make significant cuts to everyday spending.  

If you’re considering becoming a homeowner, it could help to shop around to find the best mortgage rate. Visit Credible to compare options from different lenders and choose the one with the best rate for you.

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