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December becomes first month to feel impact of rising interest rates

Affordability dips, still well below housing boom

Affordability dropped in December after the market finally felt the increasing mortgage rates for the first full month, according to First American Financial Corp., a provider of title insurance, settlement services and risk solutions for real estate transactions.

First American’s Real House Price Index rose 6.2% from November to December and 8% from December 2015. The is compared to unadjusted home prices which increased 5.8% in December from the previous year and 1.5% monthly.

“Real purchasing-power adjusted house prices surged more than 6% month-over-month in December, the first full month to see the impact of the surge in mortgage rates after the election and the most recent FOMC rate increase,” First American Chief Economist Mark Fleming said. “This interest rate surge lead to the first year-over-year decline in consumer house-buying power in two and a half years.”

“Rising rates and nominal home price growth are outpacing the influence of strong income growth, leading to declining affordability for first-time home buyers,” Fleming said. “However, housing remains as affordable as it was in late 2009.”

The RHPI measures the price changes of single-family properties throughout the U.S. adjusted for the impact of income and interest rate changes on consumer house-buying power over time and across the United States at national, state and metropolitan area levels.

But while the increasing interest rates may have pushed against affordability, real home prices are still 33.1% below their housing-boom peak and 10.1% below price levels in January 2000.

“The decrease in affordability seen in December was widespread, impacting all but one of the markets we track,” Fleming said. “Low inventory of homes for sale is creating increased competition in the market and pushing nominal prices higher.”

“Add declining purchasing power because of the jump in mortgage rates, and affordability for first-time homebuyers declines,” he said.

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