Why Interest Rates May Rise Further But May Not Be a Cause for Concern
Interest rates on home loans have gone up rather quickly in the recent past. In the past, high rates have also been seen on a downward trajectory. It is the nature of the beast – market forces, inflation, government policy, events such as the pandemic – all of these things impact rates. I had predicted that inflation is coming and higher rates were only to be expected. Given that interest rates tend to rise and fall, should you wait to invest? Is it wise to wait for interest rates to fall before investing in real estate?
Interest rates are up but so is a lot else.
With inflation currently being in the region of 8.5% loan rates have gone up to around 5% for homeowners and about 6% for investors. When the cost of living goes up, so do rents. So, landlords aren't really missing out – their investments are fetching rents that are commensurate with the cost of living; give or take. And even though rents are going up, they are still low in my view.
To get back to the issue at hand: are interest rates going to fall? If so, should you wait to invest? Taking all the factors into consideration, if I were to make an educated guess, I would say that rates may go up further in the short term. They may go up to 7% or 8% in times to come. Of course, they could fall, but chances of this happening are lower.
Why you shouldn’t wait to invest.
To be clear, I cannot predict the future. If I could, I would be the richest person on Earth, and the likes of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates would have been asking me for advice and maybe even a loan! Though I cannot predict the future, I can offer you insight based on my past experiences. In the 80s or thereabouts there were times when interest rates were really, really high – 10%, 12%, and even 14% at one point. So, the slightly higher interest rates that we are seeing now ought not to be a deterrent for your plans to invest.
I'm going to be talking about rising interest rates, the best regions to invest, long-term investment outlooks and more in our upcoming quarterly expo. You are free to join in and experience our online investment event – allthe details are available at our website. You can also reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org about any questions you may have or if you wish to schedule a consultation.
Inflation Means Higher Interest Rates – But This Need Not Impact Your Investment
“Now that interest rates have gone up by 3% relatively quickly, home prices are up significantly from a couple of years ago. So, is buying single family rental homes still worth it?” This is a top-of-the-mind question for a lot of investors right now. This is something that I get asked on social media, by people reaching out to us aticgre.com or people who attend our quarterlyonline expo events. And to these people I have one simple, straight answer – Yes! It is worth it. Investing in real estate using the formula we have perfected at ICG Real Estate is always worth it. I have also explained this at some length inthis article.
Inflation is rising, but this is not necessarily a bad thing.
I have been shouting from the rooftops about the inflation that is going to come, and come it has! Everything is more expensive right now and your hard earned dollar is simply not going as far as it used to. Rising inflation inevitably means that interest rates are going to go up, and that is what we have seen as well. Where, until recently loans were available at the lowest ever interest rates – as low as 2% in cases – all that has changed. Rates were between 2% and 4% and now that figure has climbed to about 7%. This has alarmed a lot of people and made them wonder whether or not to invest in real estate.
So here’s the thing: if interest rates are at 7%, they are still lower than the inflation rate, which is hovering in the region of 8.5%. And when I look back at my long investing career, that 7% is still an astoundingly low rate. Investors – and myself, I must add – have grown very wealthy with the help of investments made in times when those rates were a lot higher. In fact, when I first started to buy property back in the 1980s, interest rates were as high as 14%. And I still was able to create positive cash flows and keep buying more and more houses.
Why you don’t have to worry about 7% interest.
I get calls and emails from investors who are happily wealthy, having invested maybe fifteen years ago when interest rates were 7% or 8%. These investors went on to buy multiple homes. They did this by first generating a positive cash flow from rental income and then buying more homes. And then some years down the line, when there were still some years left on the loans, they sold off a couple of the homes. They then paid capital gains and repaid the remaining loans, and now enjoy their investments, free and clear!
So, don’t worry about the 7% interest rate. Your real trump card is the 30-year fixed-rate loan – which Warren Buffet also recommends. With this loan, inflation is your best friend! With inflation, cost of living will rise, and hence your rental income will increase as well. However, with the 30-year loan, your mortgage repayment is never going to change. And that amount is going to look smaller and smaller as the years go by while your rental income will continue to rise.
I have a lot of stories about successful investors who were buying real estate when interest rates were much higher than they are right now. I will be sharing some of these stories in the upcoming expo and will also go into the details of rising interest rates. To know more, you can check outthis article or watch this video.
At the end of March 2019, it became known that the White House is pressuring the Fed to lower its benchmark federal-funds rate by half a percentage point, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal by Nick Timiraos and Kate Davidson. There has been no movement yet.
We now see homeowner rates for mortgages at the 4.1% range; some of the lowest in history. If the White House succeeds, the benchmark federal-funds will not translate to lower mortgage rates right away, but mortgage rates will inevitably drop. Possibly even lower than at any time during the past decade. It is a waiting game and time will tell over the coming months.
This would likely create more buyers, push prices higher in most markets, and create an upward push in strong economy cities (and even not-so-strong).
The magical 30-year fixed rate loan
Since we are aware of the uniquely special anomaly called the 30-year fixed rate loan, (we are the only country that has this type of loan) where neither the monthly PI (principal and interest) payment (not the loan balance) keep up with inflation and the super low rate will be locked for 30 years, we are fully protected.
If you qualify for the best loan, under the FNMA (Fannie Mae, officially the Federal National Mortgage Association, or FNMA is a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE)—that is, a publicly-traded company which operates under Congressional charter—that serves to stimulate homeownership and expand the liquidity of mortgage money by creating a secondary market.) guidelines this is a great time to buy where the numbers make sense. Taking action is important.
Many are not aware that they can purchase up to 10 homes with this type of loan. Married couples (if they qualify separately) can purchase 20. This is already a great time to lock these rates in with the magical 30-year fixed rate loan. If the White House succeeds in lowering rates, the terms will become more attractive.
In my experience, I have seen people look back and lament over not making use of these great circumstances to build a solid portfolio for their future. I hope you are not one of them.
This summer in our Membership area we will have a couple of podcasts where I will talk about this solo and in interviews with experts. I will also be talking about the 30-year fixed rate loan in detail in my show produced for public television called “Remote Control Retirement Riches with Adiel Gorel” that will be airing over the next several days across the country. Take a look at our website herefor details and to check for showtimes in your area.
Interest rates are rising. In the past year mortgage rates went up by over 0.5%. Homeowner mortgage rates are now about 4.4%; investor rates are always higher, and are currently at about 5.25%. Historically, these are still very low rates. Even in the past 20 years, which saw some of the lowest interest rates in nearly a century, the average rate is about 6%; based on the past 7% and even 7.5% are considered low.
In the 1980’s there were periods where interest rates were over 14%. For many years, rates were in the “double digits.” There was a lot of joy when rates finally got down to a “single digit.” I recall everyone running to refinance to get the amazing new rate of 9.95%!
The single-family home investor
For the single-family home investor, given their ability to get a 30-year fixed rate loan, which miraculously never keeps up with inflation, these recent changes in interest rates should mean very little. I have seen thousands of people’s lives change dramatically over the years buying good solid single- family home rentals. The trick is to hold them for a long time (leaving it be–no refinancing for debt consolidation) and let inflation erode the fixed loan to the point of ridiculousness, while natural average price appreciation happens steadily (that includes booms and busts – on average single-family home prices have appreciated at least 1.5 times the rate of inflation historically).
So why do I talk about interest rate rises potentially ruining your future?
That has to do with human behavior. I have seen many cases recently, of investors who understood the powerful future benefit of buying single-family rentals, and as it happens, were looking during the period when rates were super low (investor rates were 4.7%). A few months later, when investor rates are now 5.3%, I have been hearing investors saying “Well, I don’t want to invest anymore, since rates went up from 4.7% to 5.3%”.
THIS is how you can ruin your financial future. Over the years, I have seen it time and time again – investors not taking action, not cementing their future by actually investing in a single-family home rental. Rather, they would find a reason not to do it – “interest rates are too high now”, “I read the economy will tank”, “it’s too late”, “I am too old” etc.
Using a minute change in interest rates as an excuse not to move forward, especially at a time when rates, even for investors, are supremely low – like today, is simply not going to let the powerful effect of rental homes change your future for the better.
Take action now to change your financial future
I have seen many such cases in the past, for example: two friends were considering investing in houses, one thought “the interest rates were too high” and didn’t do anything. The other went ahead and invested. Once he saw it was easy and profitable, he invested again, and again. Today, the financial difference between the two friends is staggering. The one who owns the rental homes, bought over 15 years ago, is retired with great ease, has sent his kids to great colleges, and is wealthy. His friend – not so much. It’s almost heartbreaking.
Don’t let these minor perturbations in interest rates ruin YOUR financial future.
We will discuss this and a lot more at our ICG Quarterly 1-Day Expo on Saturday 5/19/2018 near the San Francisco Airport. I will be teaching and holding extensive Q & A sessions. We will have expert speakers on Asset Protection, 1031 Exchanges, Financial Planning overall, as well as lenders, 5-star networking, and market teams from the most relevant markets in the U.S. You can attend free (or with a guest), by emailing us at email@example.com, and mentioning this blog. Be sure to give us your name and the name of your guest. Looking forward to seeing you.
In the period between 2006 and 2008, a large number of interest-only loans were taken. These loans are not really interest-only for all eternity. These are typically loans that were interest-only for 10 years, and then were due to become fully amortized until the end of the loan period. One detail that many borrowers may have missed, is that if the total loan period is 30 years (the most common), and the loan is interest-only for 10 years, then the amortization that follows the 10 interest-only years will be amortization OVER 20 YEARS!
Thus when the loan resets to being fully amortized after the first 10 years, the borrower will experience the high payment jump of going from interest-only to going to a 20-year full amortization. For a lot of borrowers, this will be a shock! Of course, the “silver lining” is that the principal is being paid under the new fully amortized schedule, so the loan balance gets lower every month. However, even when the loan was interest-only, inflation was constantly eroding it anyway.
What is the borrower to do?
If the borrower can afford the increased payment with no problem, there is not much that needs to be done. Let the loan be paid off and just continue as before. If the payment load is too heavy, and the owner’s credit and income are good (especially if the owner has under 10 properties with loans on them), a refinance would a be a logical step – good credit can get 30-years fixed-rate loans at a bit over 4% – fixed for 30 years. The payments will be higher than the interest-only payments from before, but the low-interest rate and the 30-year amortization (as opposed to 20 years), will likely make the payment far lower than the alternative. Another benefit – the old loan is likely NOT a true fixed-rate loan so as interest rates climb in the future (if they do), the already-high payment is only going to get higher still. With a 30-year fixed-rate loan, such a thing cannot happen.
If a refinance is not possible, the next thing to look into is the possibility of selling the house. In some markets, over the past few years, much equity was built as home prices appreciated significantly. A sale will pay off the unpleasant loan, and most likely will generate a profit (perhaps a handsome profit at that).
One thing to do if a sale is not possible, if the house is underwater (can still be the case in some markets), or if the equity is thin so the sales expenses will create a net shortage, is to consider selling to an investor for essentially no-money-down on a contract-for-deed in states that allow it. That investor may be attracted to the no-down (or low down) purchase and may have the resources to pay the 20-year amortization loan while increasing his/her equity via doing so.
Of course, an option of last resort is to simply walk away. There are lots of investors whose credit is still damaged from the aftermath of the recession, so the credit hit is not devastating to an already-low credit score. Nevertheless, such an act will increase the time it will take for the investor’s credit to bounce back and start the count from zero again. This is not a recommended action to take.
Most important is to be aware of the upcoming reset, and prepare before it hits.
In a Wall Street Journal article from August 19th by Josh Mitchell, it is reported that housing starts are sharply up for the year and have seen a strong uptick in July. Housing starts bode well for a general housing recovery. We have already begun to go back to our old buying style of buying new homes from developers in Oklahoma City.
I am relatively sure in the coming months we will be seeing more attractive opportunities in buying brand new products in other markets as well. It took a long time for the builders to be able to put out a competitive product for real estate investors, as they played a serious “second fiddle” to existing homes, which were priced well below what they could offer.
We are pleased to see the trend as it was always our opinion that a prudent and safe real estate investment certainly includes brand-new homes with a builder’s warranty, with a fixed-rate 30-year loan paid off by the tenant and eroded steadily by inflation (as it is not pegged to the cost of living). This mode of real estate investment serves as the foundation of building a solid financial future and achieving long-term life goals of a solid retirement and sending our kids to college.
Builders have the ability to offer the buyers many “goodies” at a cost to them- that is much lower than the retail cost (an example might be a covered patio which costs $6K but only costs the builder $2K to build). This can create an attractive package for the investor.
We will have builders and new properties available at our upcoming 1-Day Real Estate Expo near SFO on Saturday, September 13th. I am looking forward to seeing you.
I am enclosing the full WSJ article for convenience:
U.S. Housing Starts Up Sharply in July – Renewed Strength in Housing Market Could Boost Economy
By Josh Mitchell
Updated Aug. 19, 2014 11:03 a.m. ET .
WASHINGTON—Home construction surged in July, a sign that renewed strength in the housing market could boost the economy in coming months.
Housing starts climbed almost 16% last month to an annual rate of 1.093 million units, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That marked the highest level of construction since November, driven by a pronounced rise in new apartments.
Home construction rose 22% in the year through July, and a rise in applications for building permits last month suggests further gains this year. That could ease concerns at the Federal Reserve of a weak housing sector weighing on economic growth this year.
”With housing starts up 22% over the last year, the Fed’s concern about a ‘slow’ recovery in the housing market looks misplaced to us,” Economist John Ryding of RDQ Economics said in a note to clients. But details within Tuesday’s report raised questions about whether the construction gains will be sustained. Last month’s rise appeared to be due partly to a rebound in construction in the South after rainy weather caused delays earlier this summer.
Such rebounds are typically temporary. Also, the bulk of the increase was due to surging apartment construction, a volatile category that can mask underlying strength in the market. And it’s unclear whether the housing market will be able to maintain momentum if mortgages rates rise, as many economists expect them to as the Federal Reserve moves toward raising its benchmark short-term interest rates from near zero.
Amid the prospect of higher costs and weak income growth, Fannie Mae’s economics group downgraded its forecast for home sales and construction on Monday. It now expects construction of 1.43 million single-family units this year and next combined, down from an earlier forecast of 1.61 million units.
A measure of affordability, which takes into account interest rates, home prices and median household income, hit its lowest level in six years in June. That reflects a run-up in home prices.
Interest rates have fallen back to year-ago levels in recent weeks after rising late last year. The average rate on a conventional 30-year mortgage stood at 4.12% last week, down from 4.53% in the first week of the year, according to Freddie Mac.
But overall the report boosted hopes of a stronger housing recovery. In July, applications for building permits, a construction bellwether, climbed 8.1% to a 1.052 million rate. That suggests construction could pick up further in coming months. Sales of previously owned homes have picked up in recent months, buoyed by historically low interest rates, mild weather, and stronger job growth in the U.S. But sales of new homes have moved sideways. The latest pickup in home construction could signal builders are gaining confidence that overall sales will rise as the broader economy gains momentum.
From a year ago, home construction was up 21.7%. The home-construction market has steadily recovered from the depths of the recession but has yet to regain its strength from the levels that preceded the boom years in the 2000s.
At the height of the housing boom in 2005, just over 2 million homes were built. After the crash, housing starts fell to 554,000 in 2009, during the recession. Tuesday’s report showed that starts on single-family homes, which reflects the bulk of the market, climbed 8.3% in July from June.
Construction of multifamily units—mostly condominiums and apartments–rose 33% to a pace of 423,000 units, the highest level since January 2006. That category is more volatile. Other recent signs point to a strengthening housing sector.
A measure of home builder optimism rose two points to a reading of 55 this month, the National Association of Home Builders said Monday. Existing-home sales rose in June to the highest level since October, the National Association of Realtors said last month. The trade group is expected to release July’s data Thursday.
In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal there was an article (below) by Nick Timiraos regarding the effects of home price appreciation on affordability. As the article states, rising interest rates, a dearth of housing stock in many markets, still-tight lending criteria and a slow builder’s resurgence, create a real difficulty for many people to buy their first home. Needless to say, investors reap a certain benefit from this situation by enjoying an expanding demand for rentals. Since many investors have the means and sophistication to buy homes, the expanding rental pool actually improves the investment situation.
Here is the article as it appeared yesterday:
Surging Home Prices Are a Double-Edged Sword
Affordability Troubles Grow, Especially for First-Time Buyers
The U.S. housing market faces a challenge at the start of the spring sales season: higher prices.
It is hard to overstate the benefits of rising prices to the economy broadly and to homeowners, banks and home builders specifically after years of declines. Price gains have pulled more Americans from the brink of foreclosure and given home buyers more confidence that they won’t get stuck with an asset whose value will decline.
But those gains have a painful edge, too, especially because prices have bounced back so strongly. The increases have rekindled concerns about affordability, particularly for first-time buyers, and could damp the gains of a housing rebound still in its early stages. The U.S. housing market faces an unexpected challenge at the start of the spring sales season: home prices are on a tear. Price gains have pulled more Americans from the brink of foreclosure and boosted demand from consumers no longer afraid to buy.
“Prices ran up so fast in 2013, it hurt first-timers’ ability to become homeowners,” said John Burns, chief executive of a home-building consulting firm in Irvine, Calif. “It’s going to be a slower recovery than people had hoped because a number of people have been priced out of the market.” Home values nationwide are up 11% over the past two years, according to real-estate information service Zillow Inc. and 14% below their 2007 peak. Mortgage rates, which jumped a full percentage point to about 4.5% in the past year, have sharpened worries over housing affordability.
Even as prices have increased, housing still appears affordable by one traditional gauge. Since 1990, American homeowners have spent about 24% of monthly income on their mortgage payments, according to data from Morgan Stanley. Today, that payment-to-income ratio stands at around 20%, below the long-run average. The problem with that view of affordability: It assumes borrowers have great credit and large down payments. The ratio isn’t favorable for first-time buyers and others with lower incomes and smaller down payments, which increases their monthly financing costs. The payment ratio for first-time buyers was around 24% at the end of last year, in line with its long-run average, according to the Morgan Stanley analysis.
This pinch on first-timers is troubling because, so far, the housing recovery has depended to an unusual degree on cash buyers and investors. The relatively weak position of entry-level buyers could further suppress the homeownership rate—now off more than four percentage points from its 2004 peak—as more of them rent, said Vishwanath Tirupattur, a managing director at Morgan Stanley. Making matters worse, home prices are going up fastest in markets that are already expensive, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles. Just 32% of California households at the end of last year could afford the monthly payments on a median-priced home in the state of $431,510, assuming a 20% down payment, according to the California Association of Realtors. That was down from 56% of households that could afford the payments on a $276,040 median-priced home in early 2012.
Rising prices are only part of the problem for first-time buyers. Inventory shortages and tougher mortgage-qualification standards benefit buyers who can make large down payments and those who can forgo a mortgage altogether. Because many markets have low supplies of homes for sale, all-cash buyers have routinely beat out first-time buyers by guaranteeing a quick, worry-free closing for sellers.
Meanwhile, federal officials have repeatedly increased insurance premiums on loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, which serves many first-time buyers because it requires down payments of just 3.5%. While mortgage rates at the end of 2013 reached their highest levels in more than two years, the all-in cost of an FHA-backed loan—due to insurance-premium increases—was closer to a five-year high.
Rising prices are less of a problem for current homeowners seeking to trade up because they can tap growing home equity to make their next home purchase. An index tracking housing affordability from data firm CoreLogic Inc. shows that homes were 17% less affordable for first-time buyers at the end of last year compared with the year before, while the index was down just 6% for existing homeowners.
Ideally, higher prices would stimulate more home construction, which would ease inventory crunches that are partly responsible for price increases while boosting job growth. But builders have been slow to ramp up production, skittish after being caught with too much inventory when the 2008 downturn hit. Last year, many focused instead on higher-end houses, while entry-level construction was subdued. Sales of new homes last year rose by 14% from 2012, but the number of homes sold for less than $150,000 fell by 28%. Sales above $500,000 grew by 36%.
The worry is “a situation develops where construction remains low and prices continue to outpace incomes before first-time buyers can get in, and the next thing you know, you have to” bypass standard mortgage-qualification rules “to get people into homes,” said Thomas Lawler, an independent housing economist in Leesburg, Va.
Others fret that low interest rates have allowed prices to rise too fast relative to incomes, which have stagnated. While homes are still affordable on a monthly payment basis because of cheap financing, homes no longer look like a bargain when comparing prices to incomes. For the past few years, policy makers have focused on breaking a vicious downdraft in home prices. Now, it wouldn’t hurt housing to see price gains flatten out, especially if income growth remains tepid. If not, the housing market’s roller-coaster ride will continue.
Some of the markets that had gone down significantly have registered great price improvements, especially between Q1 2012 to Q3 2013. Phoenix led the pack followed closely by Las Vegas and many California cities. Florida has provided steady appreciation but did not go crazy (most likely due to the slow judicial foreclosure process which modulates home supply into the market and helps avoid spikes).
It is important to bear in mind though, that even in Phoenix and Las Vegas the prices, even after appreciation, are still low. In most cases, the prices reflect just a small premium to construction costs and are certainly very far from the peak (although that is a somewhat nebulous standard). This would be the time to remember that real estate is a classic investment, especially when powered by a 30-year fixed-rate loan.
It is now almost a consensus that interest rates will rise (most say significantly) in the next few years. Needless to say, anyone who has the ability to qualify for a good low-interest-rate 30-year fixed rate loan should get one! These are 100% inflation-proof. In fact, once you have these loans inflation becomes your “best friend” by eroding the loan since the loan is not inflation-adjusted.
Florida still supplies a steady diet of below-construction-cost homes. That would be a place to explore purchasing. However, the power of getting a fixed low rate becomes such that as long as you buy in a decent market with decent demographics, it is not bad to “get moving” and do it.
New homes by builders are still not that popular among investors but in some markets, they are not that much above the used-home fray AND they provide a certain peace of mind related to their very newness, warranties and so on. Many builders help out with the loan in some way (buy down the rate for example) so that may add to the attractiveness.
All in all 2014 should be a year to be active and purchase, especially if a 30-year loan can be had.
Should you go for a somewhat lower rate on a 15-year loan? I believe the 30-year loan provides important extra flexibility. You can always choose to pay a 30-year loan in 15 (or 14 or any other number you choose), but you cannot go the other way. You also retain the flexibility to revert back to the 30-year amortization schedule if cash flow becomes tight.
ICG uses single-family home investments, bought in advantageous locations and the best U.S. markets. We enable you to enjoy the clout that comes from purchasing a multitude of houses, even if you only buy one.
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