Credit Season’s Perspective: Consumers have been getting minimal returns on their savings accounts due to the low interest rates set by the Fed since the start of the Great Recession. On the other hand, mortgages are at record lows thanks to these low rates, which have been boosting home sales across the nation lately.
If you yell “Bernanke!” when you step on a rake, you probably hate the low interest rates the Federal Reserve has kept in place since 2008. But if you’re a builder, you probably love them, and today’s housing starts number should reflect the benefits of low interest rates.
The Fed pushed short-term interest rates down to zero in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, which is why savings rates are so low, and why the Fed is so unpopular with savers.
But the Fed has also been pushing long-term rates down, which means the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is now at 3.32 (PERCENT). If you were to buy a median-price home –half higher, half lower – at $186,100, your principal and interest payment would be $817 a month.
Those low mortgage rates mean more demand for houses. Maury Harris, economist at UBS Investment Research, expects 900,000 housing starts for November, vs. 894,000 in October. Although that’s a far cry from the average 2.68 million housing starts in 2006, it’s also far better than the low of 554,000 in 2009.
More demand for housing means that prices of existing houses are rising, too – and that, in turn, means that people can afford to sell their old homes and move up to new ones. All that buying and building, while good for homeowners and Realtors, also means more jobs in the hard-hit construction industry. And more jobs means that more people can afford homes – a virtuous circle that, at least so far, shows no sign of becoming frothy.