Freddie Mac Chief: Little to Fear in Rate Hikes

Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sean Becketti is dismissing concerns that the Federal Reserve’s latest change in monetary policy could spell trouble for the real estate market. The Fed’s decision to raise its benchmark short-term rates will not cause mortgage rates to skyrocket, reduce housing affordability, or reverse recent improvements in the housing market, he writes on Freddie Mac’s Executive Perspectives blog.

In fact, Becketti predicts that the Fed’s move won’t take much of a toll on mortgage rates at all. As an example, he cites a time during the mid-2000s when the 17 consecutive monthly rate hikes issued by the Fed basically had no effect on mortgage rates, which remained at about 6 percent.

That said, Becketti does suggest long-term rates will begin to nudge upward this year, but only marginally compared to short-term rates. Regardless, even a slight increase in mortgage rates could hamper home affordability, particularly for first-time home buyers or low-to-moderate income buyers. He says that could dampen home price increases at the lower tier of the market.

Becketti predicts that mortgage rates will increase gradually from 2015’s 4.1 percent to an average of 4.4 percent by the end of 2016. He expects home prices to moderate more in the new year too, increasing about 4.4 percent this year.

“While we believe the housing sector will remain strong in 2016, there is some uncertainty about the strength of the broader economy,” Becketti says.

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