Interest rates rise… what’s a market to do???!!
Changes in interest rates affect local, national and international economies in a bewildering variety of positive and negative ways depending on the segment, and there is vehement disagreement as to what rate or rate movement is best, or most dangerous, for whom.
As of Friday, November 18, mortgage interest rates have jumped about 15% since the election, with many economists and analysts predicting more to come in the not too distant future. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen recently suggested that the Fed is close to lifting its benchmark interest rate. However, predicting interest rate changes; what factors might arise to cause movements up or down; as well as the direction, scale and speed of changes; is enormously difficult. Witness the thousands of incorrect expert predictions over the past 10 years. For that matter, rates actually went down after the Fed last raised rates in December 2015.
Increases in interest rates raise the ongoing cost of housing and reduce housing affordability (unless there is a concurrent drop in prices). In the Bay Area, already experiencing significant social and economic ramifications from the high cost of housing at a time of historically low interest rates, this is a big issue, including how it might affect our real estate markets.
The degree of the effect of any interest rate changes will, of course, depend on what actually occurs at what speed (or does not occur), which is beyond our ability to predict. The possible scenarios in this report do not imply any predictions on our part. The first charts below provide some useful context.
From 2012 through Q3 2016, Bay Area home prices in most counties soared to new peaks. Affordability percentages dropped dramatically since 2012, but without quite reaching the lows of 2006-2007.
The drop in interest rates from 2007, the last peak of market before the 2008 crash, through early November 2016 has been incredible. And the rates prevailing prior to the 2008 crash, in the 6% range, were themselves quite low by prior historical standards. The average annual rate from 1990 through 2007 was 7.4%. Just prior to the recent 2016 election, rates were between 3.5% and 3.6% (with an all-time low of 3.3% hit in 2013). The chart at the top of this report illustrates the sudden post-election pop in rates to 4.125% (11/18/16).
Interest Rate & San Francisco Median Price Changes since 2007
The decline in interest rates was not the only or even the primary factor in the appreciation of Bay Area home prices. The massive increase in employment, much of it high-paid, and the resultant surge in population (without a parallel increase in housing supply), along with the local explosion of new wealth from our high-tech boom, were the primary factors. Still, there is no arguing that plunging interest rates made increasing home prices much more affordable.
These interest rate rise scenarios below do not imply predictions on our part: A top interest rate scenario of 6.3% was chosen simply because that was the rate in 2007, the peak of the last cycle.
The same chart that began this report
Post-election increase: Short-term spike
or beginning of a longer-term ascent?
Monthly Housing Cost Scenarios
Illustrated Using the San Francisco Median House Price
As seen below, the 15% increase in interest rate from 11/10/16 to 11/18/16 added almost $4000 to the annual housing cost of purchasing a $1,300,000 home. If the rate goes to 4.5%, the increase is about $6700, and if it goes up to 5%, the additional annual cost of housing is over $10,000. Illustrating how declining interest rates help subsidize increasing home prices, the Q3 2016 SF median home price was 45% higher than the previous peak price in 2007, however the increase in monthly housing costs (PITI) was only 14% higher than in 2007 due the big drop in mortgage rates.
Minimum Qualifying Household Income
As interest rates increase, household income requirements increase. Before the election, buyers needed an approximate income of $251,000 to qualify for financing their purchase of a median priced SF house, with a 20% down-payment. By Friday, November 18, the income requirement increased by $13,000. And if the interest rate goes up to 5% (and again, we are not saying it will), an additional $35,000 in annual income would be required.
Housing Affordability Trends for San Francisco