Coronavirus cases are increasing at a phenomenal rate and sending the economy into free-fall. Every industry will be affected in some way, but the housing market could be one of the hardest hit. Borrowers are struggling to pay their mortgages, lenders are seeing far fewer applications, and we could be just around the corner from a housing crisis akin to the decline of 2008.
So, what’s happening here, how is COVID-19 affecting mortgages and are we likely to see any major issues on the horizon?
In early March, mortgage rates dropped to an all-time low, hinting at things to come. The rate for a 30-year fixed-term mortgage fell to 3.29%, compared to March of 2019 when rates were 4.14%. That may not seem like much of a difference, but the difference between 3.29% and 4.14% on a $200,000 30-year mortgage is around $35,000.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg; the start of the problem.
Experts predict that rates will continue to fall as we progress through 2020 and COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on the US economy.
As noted in our recent guide to Coronavirus Mortgage Relief, lenders are already providing lenders with debt relief options to help them manage their mortgage in this difficult time. Foreclosure is expensive and it’s an expense that banks and credit unions can’t afford right now. They want homeowners to pay their bills and keep their homes and they will do everything they can to make that happen.
The federal government is also lending a helping hand by way of the CARES act, and we could see more significant moves on behalf of lenders and the government before the year draws to a close.
In other words, although big moves have been made and huge changes have taken place, all of this could pale in comparison to what happens when the pandemic is eradicated and the rebuilding process begins.
If you’re a homeowner tied to a high-interest rate, you could benefit from the current reduced interest rates by refinancing your mortgage. You could do that now and capitalize on the all-time low rates mentioned above or wait to see what happens in the next few months.
In any case, you can get a much lower rate than what you already have and potentially save thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.
It’s not about profiting from a bad situation, it’s about making life easier for yourself so you can navigate through this chaos. If your monthly mortgage payment is reduced, you’ll have more money in your pocket every month, which means you can put more cash towards unsecured debts and your monthly grocery bill.
It also reduces your chances of defaulting and being foreclosed upon in the future.
In the spring of 2019, the housing market was booming. It was a good time to invest in bricks and mortar and it seemed like there were some bright years ahead for homeowners and investors.
In 2020, the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic fell on the country and now, a year on from that boom, the housing market has ground to a screeching halt. No one is selling because no one is buying. The market hasn’t necessarily crashed, but it has paused, and that could cause some huge problems in the near future.
What happens to all the homeowners who were selling their homes before this crisis and wanted to sell during? As soon as the pandemic fades away, they’ll all list their homes at the same time, and they’ll no doubt be joined by countless other homeowners who are selling because of the pandemic.
Once the market reopens, it will be flooded with homes for sale. At the same time, homeowners once ready to buy will now be struggling to deal with the consequences of the pandemic, while others will be hesitant of buying and will want to bide their time. Sellers will get desperate, prices will drop, and it will be a buyer’s market.
It’s hard to predict just how far house prices will fall or even if they will fall at all, but if the last few months are anything to go by, it’s fair to assume that the damage will be considerable.
While it seems most likely that post-pandemic USA will be a buyer’s market, it could also go the other way. Millions of Americans could be looking to purchase homes in 2020. If all of them are waiting for the end of the pandemic in the hope that the prices will be lower and the interest rates more favorable, they could overload the market.
Buyers may also be desperate to sink their money into bricks and mortar, believing it to be a safe investment and protection against any future economic issues. After all, when you rent, you’re always at the mercy of the landlord and have few guarantees that your home will still be your home months down the line.
That’s a scary thought in the middle of a pandemic, where it may be difficult, and in some cases impossible, to move into another property on short notice.
To remedy this, renters may be desperate to buy and may jump into the housing market as soon as the chaos dies down. A sudden rush of buyers will send the market in the opposite direction, allowing sellers to jack up their prices.
Most of which we discussed above is speculation. We can predict the likelihood of it being a buyer’s market and of interest rates falling based on everything that has happened thus far, but we can’t say that it will happen for certain.
COVID-19 has made life very unpredictable. In December 2019, when word of the first Chinese cases began to filter to our shores, few could have guessed that just 3 months later, the world would be in lockdown, everyone would be going crazy for toilet paper, and people would be dying in their droves.
At the beginning of the outbreak, when Europe was on its knees, President Trump was dismissive of the risks and suggested that everything would be okay, the US would be safe, and the virus would be fleeting. A few weeks later, the United States became the worst affected country and fatalities entered double figures.
It’s a novel pandemic that few predicted, and no one was prepared for, and as things stand it’s less about fighting the disease and more about avoiding it.
As a result, we can’t be certain that the housing market will decline or that mortgage rates will drop. We just have to wait and see and hope that we all get through this with our lives, properties, and professions intact.