Rates again prove to be of minor concern in homebuyer survey

Only a small share of potential homebuyers said rising rates would make them consider abandoning their home search, according to a recent survey by the real estate company Redfin. However, nearly seven out of 10 respondents said higher rates would force them to make adjustments to their search.

Only 6 percent of respondents said they would cancel plans to buy a home if mortgage rates surpassed 5 percent. One in four respondents said such an increase would have no impact on their home buying plans.

According to Freddie Mac, the average rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage has been steadily climbing in early 2018. The average rate stood at 4.38 percent on Feb. 15.

Average rates were variable in 2017, reaching a high of 4.3 percent on March 16 and retreating to a low of 3.78 percent on Sept. 14. At the end of the year, when the survey was issued, average rates were hovering just below 4 percent. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage has not exceeded 5 percent since February 2011.

Twenty-seven percent of the respondents in the Redfin survey said they would slow down their home search if rates rose above 5 percent so see if they might come back down. Twenty-one percent said they would feel more pressure to buy a home before rates potentially climbed higher. The same share said they wouldn't feel any additional urgency, but would look in different neighborhoods or at less expensive homes to try to keep their monthly payments more manageable.

Respondents were also asked what they considered to be the top concerns facing the United States. Twenty-two percent cited rising interest rates, making it the fourth most pressing concern.

Thirty-eight percent said they were concerned about high taxes. Redfin noted that the survey was issued during deliberations over the congressional tax reform bill, which orginally called for the elimination of state and local tax deductions. The final bill allowed these deductions, but capped them at $10,000.

One in three respondents said they considered affordable housing to be a pressing concern in the U.S. Twenty-eight percent cited the income gap between the rich and the poor.

Asked how they expect home prices in their area to fare in 2018, the majority of respondents—52 percent—said they believe they will rise slightly. One-quarter of respondents expect them to rise significantly, while 17 percent believe they will stay level. Five percent said they think prices will go down slightly, while just 1 percent expected that they will plunge significantly.

"Tight credit, lack of inventory, and high demand are the major factors that tell us there's no housing bubble," said Nela Richardson, chief economist at Redfin. "There are still many more buyers than the current housing supply can support, with no major relief in sight. Strict lending regulations make it much harder to buy a house you can't afford than during the housing boom a decade ago. Finally, still-low interest rates somewhat offset high prices for some buyers."

Redfin's survey was fielded to 4,270 between Nov. 1 and Dec. 6 of last year. Respondents were concentrated in 14 major metropolitan areas, including six cities on the West Coast and two in Texas.


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