The key interest rate is rising for the first and only time this year, with the Federal Reserve on Wednesday voting to raise it by one-quarter percentage point. The decision, largely expected in the run-up to the announcement, comes with the intent to raise rates three times in 2017.
“In view of realized and expected labor market conditions and inflation, the Committee decided to raise the target range for the federal funds rate to 1/2 to 3/4 percent,” according to a statement by the Fed. “The stance of monetary policy remains accommodative, thereby supporting some further strengthening in labor market conditions and a return to 2 percent inflation.”
The hike is likely to have minimal effect on the average homeowner, whose monthly mortgage payment would only increase by $25, according to a recent Zillow analysis. More than three-quarters of homeowners, current and prospective, recently surveyed by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices reported increasing interest rates as a challenge to the market.
“Regardless of Fed movements, homeownership remains one of the safest investment options for wealth-building today because of the immense appreciation potential,” says Chris Heller, CEO of Keller Williams. “And, a home remains a valuable hedge against inflation.”
More key rate increases—and subsequent mortgage rate increases—could hinder a housing market already set to slow substantially in 2017.
“Signs point to the Fed raising rates at least three times next year, and just like we’ve seen in the last month, mortgage rates will likely move proportionately in anticipation of those increases, as clear data emerges about stronger economic growth and inflation,” says realtor.com® Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke. “The Fed—and financial markets—will have to wait to see what comes of U.S. fiscal policies in the weeks and months ahead and how that impacts the economy and the potential for more inflation.”
Smoke also states, “Today’s Fed announcement is going to have the greatest impact on first-time homebuyers as they consider their monthly payment budgets. Rates will likely stay the same until about March so buyers considering a purchase in 2017 may want to consider getting into the market now.”
The key rate leads the movement of mortgage rates, which sprang up over 4 percent since the election; mortgage applications, in response, dove roughly 10 percent. The rate was last raised one year ago, spurring initial reports of multiple hikes in 2016; the Fed pulled back on that estimation as the economy bore out softer than expected over the course of the year.
“A bump in mortgage rates has more bark than bite,” said Gino Blefari, CEO of HSF Affiliates, at the time. “The average American spends about twice as much every month on coffee.
“People feel good about real estate because housing is doing well in many markets across America,” says Blefari of [Wednesday’s] decision. “Although the idea of a rate hike can grab headlines and initially create some unease, it’s important to remember rate increases are often the mark of an improving, healthy U.S. economy. That is the case [now].”
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