Low Interest Rates Do Not Make Homes Affordable
Does the sales price of your home matter if the mortgage rate is low enough?
If you ever thought about buying a home, the recent all-time low mortgage rates must be enticing. And this is exactly how the government wants everybody to feel, by the way. In an effort to keep homes affordable (as they claim), the federal reserve is driving down interest rates to record lows. But is what they are doing helping? Let's take a look.
Just a short couple of years ago, interest rates were at 6 percent. For a $300,000 mortgage, the payment would have been $1798.65 a month. With the interest rate at 4.5 percent, the monthly payment drops to $1520.06. So far so good, because it costs us less to own our home.
But wait a minute.
Most people don't just refinance and lower their payment. These days, with rates at 4.5 percent, roughly the same monthly payment ($1798.73, to be exact) could get you a $355,000 mortgage. So what do people do? Instead of buying a $350,000 home with their down payment and loan approval letter, they shop for a $400,000 home. And who can blame them? An extra $50,000 almost always gets them a nicer place. Sometimes, it would actually allow them to pay more for a house than they otherwise would.
For example, they might have been able to get the house for $350,000 if they tell the seller that the offer is all they are approved for, but if a buyer can muster up $400,000, he might end up offering $360,000. Same house, higher transaction price. Having a lower interest rate also allows more people to qualify for a home. This is a good thing for someone who couldn't afford the payment before, but it drives prices higher because of more demand, ultimately lowering affordability for everybody.
In other words, lowering interest rates gets more people thinking about buying a home and drives up demand. Most of the time, that's a noble and worthwhile goal, since home ownership is still a dream of many. But as you've witnessed in the last decade, allowing more people to own homes mindlessly is just reckless. What we really need to do is make homes affordable so financially responsible people can actually afford the payments, which is only achievable through lower home prices.
I'm a homeowner too, so the selfish side of me is thinking that high-priced homes are good. But for the economy to grow and our country to be a place people want to be in the future, nice homes need to be affordable without government intervention. Unaffordable home prices will never get us there. Please allow homes to be affordable again for the hard-working American.
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