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For Clues About The Future Of Mortgage Rates, Watch For Inflation

2010
03.19

Inflation is bad for mortgage ratesHomes are more affordable across the nation as the housing market emerges from a slow winter season with mortgage rates still near 5 percent.

Soft housing and low rates are an excellent combination for home buyers but whereas home values rise with a gradual pace, mortgage rates change in an instant.  It’s something worth watching.

Each 0.25% increase to conventional or FHA rates adds approximately $16 per month for each $100,000 borrowed. Mortgage rate volatility can change your household budget.

If you’re trying to gauge whether rates will be rising or falling, one keyword for which to listen is “inflation”. Mortgage rates are highly responsive to inflation.

By definition, inflation is when a currency loses its value; when what used to cost $2.00 now costs $2.15. As consumers, we perceive inflation as goods becoming more expensive.  However, it’s not that goods are more expensive, per se. It’s that the dollars used to buy them are worth less.

This is a big deal to mortgage rates because mortgage bonds are denominated, bought, and sold in U.S. dollars.  As the dollar loses value to inflation, therefore, so does the value of every mortgage bond in existence. When bonds lose their value, investors don’t want them and bond prices fall.  Mortgage rates move opposite of bond prices. 

Prices down, rates up.

In today’s market, the relationship between inflation and mortgage rates is helping home buyers. The Cost of Living made its smallest annual gain in 6 years last month and the Fed has repeatedly said that inflation will stay low for some time. The combination is driving investors to buy mortgage bonds which, in turn, is suppresses rates.

So long as it lasts, the cost of homeownership will remain relatively low. Combined with the expiring tax credit, the timing to buy a Scottsdale home may be as good as it gets.

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