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The vast majority of United States homeowners boast a mortgage rate below 6 percent — a bittersweet pill that explains the stalemate playing out in housing markets across the country.
A whopping 91.8 percent of homeowners with mortgages are paying less than 6 percent interest — down modestly from a record-high of 92.9 percent roughly a year ago, according to an analysis released Wednesday by Redfin.
This means approximately 9 out 10 homeowners with mortgages are paying less than the current average mortgage rate of 6.71 percent — the highest level in over 20 years — leaving most homeowners reluctant to list their current home and reenter the mortgage market unless they absolutely have to.
Share of mortgage loans outstanding by mortgage rate
While 91.8 percent of homeowners with mortgages have a rate below 6 percent, 82.4 percent have a rate below 5 percent, 62 percent enjoy a rate below 4 percent, and 23.5 percent boast a rate below 3 percent, according to Redfin.
“High mortgage rates are a double whammy because they’re discouraging both buyers and sellers–and they’re discouraging sellers so much that even the buyers who are out there are having trouble finding a place to buy,” Redfin Deputy Chief Economist Taylor Marr said. “The lock-in effect is unlikely to go away in the near future. Mortgage rates probably won’t drop below 6 percent before the end of the year, and most homeowners wouldn’t be motivated to sell unless rates dropped further. Some of them simply don’t want to take on a 6 percent-plus mortgage rate and some can’t afford to.”
Homeowners feeling “locked in” to their current mortgage rate have pushed inventory levels to record lows during the spring market. New listings of homes for sale and the total number of homes for sale have dropped to their lowest levels on record, according to Redfin data — fueling competition among homebuyers in some areas which is keeping prices from dropping off too severely despite depressed demand overall.
During a recent Bloomberg TV appearance Compass CEO Robert Reffkin equated sub-4 percent mortgage rates to “handcuffs” keeping homeowners locked into place whether they like it or not.
According to a Redfin survey conducted in early June, 27 percent of homeowners considering listing their home would feel more urgency to do so if mortgage rates dropped to 5 percent or below. 49 percent would feel more urgency if rates dropped to 4 percent or below and 78 percent would strongly consider listing if rates dropped to 3 percent or below — a situation that is highly unlikely while the Federal Reserve continues to fight inflation.
“The only people selling right now are the ones who need to,” Atlanta Redfin Premier agent Jasmine Harris said in a statement. “The last three potential sellers I’ve met are people who are moving out of the country. I’m also working with someone who’s moving out of town for a new job and another person who needs a smaller home for health reasons. So there are some homes coming on the market, but not nearly as many as there would be if rates weren’t so high.”