Are rising rates dooming the housing recovery? Freddie Mac chief economist says not likely

Mortgage rates have been rising ever since Ben Bernanke let the cat out of the bag and suggested a tapering of mortgage-backed securities purchases could very well take place in the near future.

While it’s no secret the Fed will eventually have to pull the trigger on MBS purchases, the Primary Mortgage Market Survey from Freddie Mac shows the “rate on 30-year fixed mortgages was up a full percentage point between the start of this year and the middle of May,” according to a market update from Freddie Mac chief economist Frank Nothaft.

And despite higher interest rates expected throughout the year, Nothaft is not throwing in the towel – he thinks the housing recovery will survive elevating interest rates. 

“Demand is strong, supply is limited, and for most families in most markets, housing affordability is still strong. But we do expect a substantial change in single-family originations as we transition from a refinance-dominated market to a much smaller purchase-money market by year-end,” he wrote.

All the gloom and doom around rates is what Nothaft refers to as taper talk.

Rates are rising because the market believes the Fed will taper its acquisition of MBS in the near future. The natural outcome is rising rates — which some see as a significant challenge for the housing recovery.

While others see Bernanke’s removal of the punch bowl (or MBS purchases) as a potential tragedy, Nothaft is more relaxed and wishing others would ease up a bit.

“So for those who like the punch bowl analogy around tapering, there’s plenty of time to drink, but do us all a favor and drink responsibly, so the housing market can avoid the roller coaster ride with mortgage rates,” Nothaft writes.

3d rendering of a row of luxury townhouses along a street

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