According to the most recent Zillow Home Price Expectations Survey, conducted by Pulsenomics, most homes are now more sensitive than ever to changing mortgage interest rates as rates climb back toward historic norms. Years of rates near historic lows have kept monthly payments manageable even as home values were rapidly rising.
Most of the Survey’s panelists (58 percent) agree that home values today were somewhat or much more sensitive to changing mortgage rates than in years past, while just 15 percent of panelists said home values today are somewhat or much less sensitive to interest rates.
"Historically, small movements in mortgage rates have not dramatically shifted the housing market. During previous periods of rising rates – in the mid-1990s and mid-2000s – the housing market remained strong buoyed by a strong labor market and, in the latter case, by lax lending standards," said Aaron Terrazas, Senior Economist at Zillow. "But that pattern may not repeat itself. There are strong reasons to believe that the housing market is more responsive to changes in interest rates than in the past – accelerating when rates drop and slowing when rates rise. Mortgage rates hit seven-year highs in November but then fell back in December. If they remain low during the early months of 2019, the housing market could see a modest reacceleration."
According to the panelists, first-time buyer activity is expected to increase somewhat, while investor activity is expected to decrease. However, the panelists were split on repeat buyer activity, with nearly half saying it would not change much, while an equal 23 percent on either side predict that it would either decrease or increase somewhat.
"Expectations of higher activity among first-time buyers this year, coupled with projections for diminished activity among individual and institutional investors, are contributing to a favorable outlook for the U.S. homeownership rate," said Terry Loebs, Founder of Pulsenomics. "Despite the recent price and rate increases, more than eight in 10 experts believe that homeownership in this country will be higher two years from now, and within five years, that it will eclipse the historical average level."