Last year I was beating the drum for people to refinance their mortgage: here, here and here. My argument at the time was that it was something productive people could do instead of going all-in on GameStop, Bitcoin, and the like. Since then mortgage rates have soared and are now in excess of 6.5%.
Source: Freddie Mac
We are now seeing arguments that people are going to be unwilling to move due to the fact that they have already locked in attractive, sub-3.0% rates. Redfin says 85% of mortgages are now well below today’s current rate. But a home is more than just a house with a loan attached to it.
A home is a bundle of attributes, a mortgage being just one of many. Beyond being shelter, a house has all sorts of emotional attachments, tied up in family, identity and neighborhood.* Then there are a slew of financial considerations including potential appreciation, costs like insurance and property taxes, then there is the whole issue of maintenance and upkeep. That is why a traditional rent vs. buy calculator omits so much. A lot of things can’t be measured by dollar and cents.
One can easily extend this analogy to a whole host of things: transportation choices, your job, a relationship. pet ownership, etc. The list goes on and on. Nearly every important decision we make comes with a whole host of costs, benefits and trade-offs, both explicit and implicit. The challenge is that many of these don’t come to light until we experience them first hand.
Higher mortgage rates or not, people are going to move and sell their house. They will do so for any number of non-house related reasons including career, family, lifestyle, etc. These factors generally don’t fit on a spreadsheet.
Some day, mortgage rates will come back down. And even more people will feel comfortable moving. In the meantime, people are going to make big decisions in their lives based on things other than the 30-year mortgage interest rate.
*Although there is some evidence that people don’t feel as they think will after buying a house.