“The rise in rates is associated with an anticipation of stronger economic and wage growth, both of which favor buyers,” says Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for realtor.com. “At the same time, higher rates make qualifying for a mortgage and finding affordable inventory more challenging. The decline in the share of first-time buyers since October suggests that the move-up in rates is discouraging new homebuyers already.”
First-time homebuyers affording a 20 percent down payment on a median-priced home at the current average 30-year rate would be responsible for an additional $720 in interest each year, according to realtor.com’s report.
The rise in rates is not stifling demand overall, though, according to realtor.com’s report—in fact, repeat homebuyer activity has continued, as buyers, uncertain about the future, take advantage of still-low rates. Consumers recently surveyed by Fannie Mae believe now is a good time to buy a home, but also believe mortgage rates will rise in the year ahead.
“Last fall, we saw a large jump in the number of first-timers planning home purchases, which was very encouraging because their market share is still well below pre-recession levels,” Smoke says. “But, as evidenced by their decline in share, first-time buyers are really dependent on financing, and affordability is one of their largest barriers to homeownership. This number could continue to decline with anticipated increases in interest rates and home prices.”