Rising Rates and First-Time Homebuyers Drive Housing Market
WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 20) – Rising mortgage rates helped push first-time homebuyers to buy properties in November, while investors lost some of their enthusiasm for distressed properties last month. These are two of the major findings of the latest Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance HousingPulse Tracking Survey.
The first-time homebuyer share of home purchases surged from 34.4% in October to 37.2% last month as long-time mortgage rates started to climb from record lows in early November.
Meanwhile, investor activity continued a two-month decline, falling from 21.4% for home purchase transactions in October to 19.9% in November. During September, investor participation peaked at 22.3%, a 15-month high, according to the closely watched survey. Separately, the market share of current homeowners also fell in November – going from 44.2% in October to 42.9% last month.
“The recent surge in interest rates has made potential homebuyers nervous,” explained Thomas Popik, director of the HousingPulse survey. “If rates go up much more, then a good percentage of them will no longer qualify for the properties they want. As a result, they’re making bids on homes and quickly closing before their rate locks expire.”
Real estate agents responding to the latest survey commented on the rate-induced surge of homebuyer interest. “First-time buyers are back looking at homes,” reported an agent in Oregon. “Interest rates have helped spur recent activity,” added an agent in Colorado.
Current homeowners, many of whom must sell their current residence to purchase another, are often precluded from quickly closing on properties, Popik noted, in explaining their reduced share of home purchase transactions in November.
The surge in home buying did not affect sales of all properties equally. Short sales, which require many months to obtain mortgage-servicer approval, were often left out. “Homebuyer concern for locking in interest rates while rates are low caused them to bypass short sale listings,” commented an agent in Hawaii. “Most people are not prepared to wait for a short sale to settle…Buyers are concerned that interest rates are rising and don't want to take a chance by agreeing to settle 5 or 6 months in the future,” wrote an agent in Virginia.
The large inventory of distressed properties is making investors nervous that prices will decline in 2011, Popik reported, adding that many investors see their previous business model – buy, rehab, and immediately sell – becoming increasingly difficult to execute and are now being forced to rent their properties. “Investors are starting to get a little flaky and aren't closing after getting short sale approval as they feel prices will drop further,” stated an agent in Arizona. “Investors interested in buy and hold have become more numerous in recent months,” said an agent in Virginia.
The Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance HousingPulse Tracking Survey involves more than 3,000 real estate agents nationwide each month and provides up-to-date intelligence on home sales and mortgage usage patterns.
For more information on the survey, contact John Campbell at Campbell Surveys at (202) 363-2069 or firstname.lastname@example.org.