After exceeding 8 percent in October, rising mortgage rates overtook “lack of housing inventory” as the top concern for real estate agents, according to the results of the latest monthly Inman Intel Index.

Approximately one-third of agents and the brokerage executives who lead them believe high mortgage rates are the biggest for concern in the housing market today, surpassing low inventory and fallout from commission lawsuits such as Sitzer | Burnett, according to the results of October’s Inman Intel Index survey, released last week.

After exceeding 8 percent in October, rising mortgage rates overtook “lack of housing inventory” as agents’ top fear after ranking second in the same survey a month earlier. The findings are among hundreds gleaned from the Inman Intel Index, or Triple I, which was conducted Oct. 23-31 and drew 1,269 responses. The 168-page report is available exclusively to Inman Intel subscribers and includes a comprehensive breakdown of all survey responses.

This month’s Inman Intel Index survey is open now.

“I think that homebuyers and real estate agents understand well that the 3 percent mortgage rate is a historic abnormality and is not the norm,” Gay Cororaton, chief economist for the Miami Association of Realtors, told Inman by email. “But the current rate of 8 percent is also not normal, and I expect rates to go further down in 2024.”

Mortgage rates have fallen significantly in November, with the average 30-year fixed mortgage closer to 7 percent than it has been in two months. For homebuyers and sellers, the benefit is clear, but after more than a year of rates in excess of 6 percent, the decline in rates is also a huge morale booster for real estate professionals, according to the survey results.

Only one group surveyed in the Triple-I didn’t rank interest rates as their top business concern in October. Mortgage originators, who did rank them first in September, put them second behind lack of home inventory. With refinance activity down severely, it stands to reason that brokers and bankers are focused on homes coming on the market.

To track industry sentiment, the Triple-I polls real estate agents, loan originators, brokers, industry executives and proptech leaders monthly. November’s survey opened today and can be accessed here.

No one gets a bite at the apple, though, until someone decides to buy a home, and elevated interest rates continue to factor heavily into the homebuying equation for many Americans. A new consumer survey undertaken by Inman, in partnership with Dig Insights, surveyed 3,000 potential homebuyers and found that many need to see a far more dramatic rate drop to move forward.

More than 2 out of 3 Americans surveyed by Dig Insights indicated they were unlikely to buy in the next 12 months, and 35 percent of those said that high interest rates were a factor in their decision. Asked how much mortgage rates would need to decrease for them to become likely to buy, one-third chose “More than 2 percent.”

According to an Inman Intel analysis last month, a mortgage payment that would have been close to $1,175 four years ago now comes to over $2,600 a month. That’s a problem for a lot of homebuyers, first-timers or not.

“With mortgage rates still expected to be elevated at over 5 percent, there’s naturally a higher financial hurdle for existing homeowners to move,” wrote Cororaton, a former senior economist and the director of housing and commercial research at the Research Group of the National Association of Realtors.

With a potential ceiling on rates, real estate agents and loan originators are looking toward 2024 with cautious optimism. While nearly 70 percent of agents indicated their buyer pipeline was either lighter or substantially lighter than it was 12 months ago, less than 30 percent felt that would be the case one year from now. Over one-quarter of them responded “Heavier,” while just under 44 percent said they expected it to be about the same.

Mortgage originators were even more optimistic, with over 37 percent expecting a heavier borrower pipeline in 12 months.

Email Chris LeBarton

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