As we all know, interest rates have plummeted to historical lows in recent months. Average long-term interest rates remained below 5% throughout March 2010. That is well below the 6% average that we were seeing in 2008, not to mention the lowest rates seen in decades. All good things must come to an end (clearly not said by anyone from the optimistic Emerald Isle) and we have already seen rates climb over 5% to an 8 month high of 5.25%.
So what does the future hold for interest rates? As I am NOT clairvoyant with a crystal ball I can only look to the past to try and get an indication of what the future holds. History shows that periods of significantly low interest rates are generally followed by sky-high rates. Case in point: From 1970 to 1972, 30 year fixed mortgage rates hovered around 7.25% before leaping to 10% by the end of 1973. Murphy's law applies here (Murphy was a well known pessimist in Ireland ), when rates move downwards, it is typically a slow creep to the downside. However, when rates rise, it is typically violently quick to the upside.
So why are rates rising?
- Good economic news is one reason that rates are rising: Government debt, a safe bet during the recession is losing its appeal as stocks and corporate bonds are becoming the investments of choice by investors.
- The Federal Reserve has ended its program of buying Mortgage Backed Securities. When the Fed was buying, rates were in the mid 4% range for most of last year. Today, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, the national average for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage is 5.31%.
For people putting their home on the market this spring, rising rates may actually be a good thing. Buyers are racing to complete their transaction for two main reasons
- Buyers want to lock in their interest rate before they go higher.
- Buyers want to have a signed Purchase Agreement in place before April 30th in order to qualify for the (up to) $8,000 Tax Credit offered by the U.S. Government.
I am expecting a frenzied last two weeks in April as there will be a near panic (in some cases) to meet the April 30th deadline. As a seller, price your home right as you will not have time to "test the waters". As a buyer, get pre-approved and lock in your interest rate before it is too late.