How interest rates impact buying power

Along with America’s first interest rate hike in nearly a decade will come rising mortgage rates. And this economic shift will affect buying power of people in the market for a home. However the housing market is slow to catch up with general rate trends, so there are still deals to be had if you’re in the market to buy a home, or funds to be made on the sale of an existing home.

While you might want to think about a move sooner rather than later, rising rates may not impact the big-picture housing market as significantly you might imagine. Even as mortgage rates inch upward, economists are predicting that the shift shouldn’t upset the housing recovery we’ve watched over the last decade. For example, the Fed’s initial 25-basis-point increase on a traditional 30-year fixed-rate mortgage might slow home appreciation by 1 percent more than expected without the rate increase. This would cause existing-home sales to slow by about 2.5% on annualized and seasonally adjusted basis. That’s about 150,000 fewer sales over the course of a year.

What a new mortgage looks like

While a Fed rate hike outlook is not all gloom and doom, time is of the essence in making that housing decision you might have been putting off, as the U.S. is beginning to see a slowdown in house-price appreciation as well as initial waning in demand for homes. To understand how the rate hike will begin to impact individual homebuyers, it may be helpful to understand how a few percentage points can move a mortgage payment.

Let’s use a simple example: A 30-year fixed mortgage on a $350,000 home, with 10% down payment and a 4% loan, will cost a home buyer just over $1,500 per month, plus those extras including taxes, homeowner’s insurance and mortgage insurance. At just a half percentage point more—4.5%—will cost a new homeowner approximately $92 more per month, or about $33,000 over the three-decade life of the mortgage. At a full percentage point jump, it will a buyer will owe $184 more each month, and more than $66,000 over the life of the loan.

Despite tougher-to-swallow monthly payments, a report from First American showed that interest rates would need to reach around 5.1% before we would see a significant reduction in the volume of residential housing transactions. It’s also important to remember that by historic standards, rates available to help all types of people purchase a home are still quite low. Anyone remember the 70s, when rates were in the double digits, topping out at 20% by 1980? So, 5% isn’t looking too bad right now. Likewise, the rising of short-term interest rates is actually a sign that the economy is getting stronger, so that’s also a positive when considering the broader health of America.

The takeaway here? It’s not a dire time—yet—for people looking to purchase a home this year. That said, it would be wise to start getting finances in order if you’re considered investing in a home in the near future. If you’ve been sitting on the fence, this could be the time to take a leap of faith. And a pre-qualification for a home based on current rates is a good place to start.