Mortgage rates may determine how long our (national and Phoenix) current downturn will last. The cost of living, or inflation, may determine interest rates. Lenders don’t make money by loaning to us at less than the rate of inflation. Which is why we always felt that the greatest deal around was a fixed rate mortgage because we were paying the lender back with inflated dollars.

For the average borrower, the current 30-year mortgage rate is now at 6% – assuming you have a mid-700 Credit score or above. For a 50 year context, prior to 2022, the national average mortgage rate from 1971 has been? Jackpot: 7.77%! They have been less than that since 2001. (See Chart below)

“Jim, if rates EVER get below 13% again, we’ll be rich!”

When 30 year mortgage rates were uber cheap, as in before February of this year, and for most of the last 10 years, we Realtors and lenders were living in a most unreal world of cheap rates. Most of my younger colleagues, and certainly those who have been in the business for less than 10 years, would oft roll their eyes when I talk about the good and not-so-good old days, prior to this millennia. And as long as we had a market in balance, all was good.

But alas…

So here we are in 2022, our 6% rates slowing (stopping?) our market. I don’t have any numbers about Realtors leaving the business yet – we’ll know more about that at year’s end when we have to cough up our annual board, MLS, and Realtor dues for 2023. But on the mortgage end, over 75,000 mortgage related jobs nationally have been cut, and lenders are just getting started slicing and dicing. It started last year with the refi market dropping and is now in full swing with purchase apps plummeting.

Will we see 3% Rates Ever Again?

Will we see 3% rates ever again? Only the Lord knows that one, but if we did, it may not be too healthy for us. Honestly, the 5%-6% range may be the real sweet spot. Think about it. How was our market doing at 3%? How was it for first time home buyers as they competed with institutional and private investors who soaked up much of the new inventory of homes coming on the market causing the market to inflate to unsustainable prices?

One of the benefits of our rising market might be the slowing of buyers buying as landlords because the market numbers no longer make economic sense. But, you say, buyers will have to pay a higher monthly payment. Yes, but how would a 6% mortgage look compared to a 7%, 8%, 10% or more rate?

Remember, for long term rates, inflation is the key metric. Look again at the chart, half that chart (25 years) is above the near 8% long term average. I remember saying to a former friend and colleague of mine in Truckee, California in 1984, Jim Orebaugh, “Jim, if rates EVER get below 13% again, we’ll be rich!” No one can tell me or you how high inflation will go!

You say, Mike you’re not an economist, what do you know? You got me there. After all, economists have forecasted nine out of the last five recessions😉