Call it the Trump effect. Under President Trump, homes across the nation are projected to become more expensive, leaving some homeowners out in the cold. Normally, rising home prices are an indicator of a strong economy, but high mortgage rates and low supply have some economists feeling depressed.
There was a sharp jump in mortgage interest rates right after the November election, and as CNBC’s Diana Olick put it, this is “the least affordable time to buy a house since the Great Recession.”
That’s not all, though. The average interest rate of a 30-year fixed mortgage skyrocketed in the weeks after the election, and rates are still on a steady incline upwards. In October, the nationwide average rate was 3.47%; at the end of November it was 4.13%, and within the first few weeks of December it was holding at 4.16%. Short-term mortgages have been following a similar trend line and rapidly increasing for the past two months.
Why is this happening?
Financial experts believe that this massive growth in interest rates is due partly to the fact that after any presidential election, not just President Trump’s, the housing market briefly surges. But add this effect to the Federal Reserve’s December 14 decision to increase their overall federal funds rate, which is a loan between banks bigly impacted by mortgage rates, and you get rising home prices. How this works is simple: the higher the mortgage rate, the higher the federal funds rate becomes.
In general, President Trump will inherit a strong economy from President Barack Obama, but economists say that rising mortgage rates should be a major cause of concern for the new populist administration.
To put these extreme interest rates into perspective, since Trump has been elected, the average cost of buying a home has increased by $16,400. This represents a full 21.6% of an average American’s income to buy a median priced home, which is at the highest it has been since June 2010.
“The last time affordability ratios came close to this point (back in 2013 after a sharp rise in rates), there was an immediate reaction in terms of home price appreciation,” says Ben Graboske, vice president of Black Knight Data and Analytics, to CNBC. “They didn’t fall, but the rate at which they had been rising was basically cut in half, from 9 percent annually to less than 5 percent in a matter of months.”
However, what is different now is that the supply of homes is so low across the nation that there is fierce competition to keep the prices high. As a whole, housing inventory has been declining for the past five quarters, and is down an overall 3.4% for the 2016 calendar year.
A huge factor in this decline has to do with the immigrant population. The majority of builders who are constructing new homes are immigrants who will work for low wages; however, the number of construction workers in the housing sector is down 40% since its all-time high in 2006. Whether this is due to the fact that there is a slowdown in immigration to the U.S., or because many workers left the construction industry after the housing crash in 2009 and never came back, financial experts can’t say.
If President Trump follows through on his controversial immigration policies, the lack of construction workers could get even worse in the coming years.
“Given that nearly one in four construction workers are foreign-born, stricter immigration policies from the Trump administration are likely to make the problem worse,” explains economist Nela Richardson to Quartz.
Amidst all these housing market fluctuations, the renting market is staying steady and strong. The nationwide rent-to-price ratio, which explains the ratio of the average rent compared to the average price of buying a home, has been low since 2012. This could mean that more Americans could move to renting if owning a home becomes too expensive.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) believes that the scarcity of new homes has kept buyers out of the market, and more and more are renting even if it is not ideal. Plus, these surging home prices are causing Americans to avoid putting time or effort into their home, as they don’t know if they’ll still be able to afford them in a few years. Interior designers say that 47% of Americans haven’t updated their home decor in the last few years, and when homeowners do spend money on their home, it is usually for necessary maintenance and repairs. This is costly as well; on average, a homeowner will spend up to 4% of their home’s value on home improvement annually, which amounts to about $2,000 for an average sized home. And when home prices go up, so does the cost of maintenance, property taxes, interest payments, and other expenses.
With more and more Americans renting, and the supply of quality houses on the market dwindling, the NAR predicts the American home-ownership rate is on track to reach a 50-year low under President Trump.
Something to think about for a President who promised to make America great again.