Defying most experts’ predictions, mortgage rates have fallen below 5%, and may drop to 4.5%, allowing borrowers to get more home for their money.
On the other hand, you could avoid the bigger-is-better syndrome and enjoy a lower payment on a home that’s all you really need. Which is smarter?
Lots of forces push Americans toward buying the most expensive home they can afford. Your real estate agent will get a bigger commission if you buy an expensive home. Many people believe a home is a good investment, so that a more expensive home is a more profitable one. And the more expensive home may be nicer to live in too.
At the start of the year, the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage charged a bit more than 5.6%. If it falls to 4.5%, as some experts now predict, monthly payments on every $100,000 borrowed would fall from $616 to $507, according to the Mortgage Loan Calculator. On a $300,000 loan, that would save you $3,934 a year.
That 1.1 percentage point drop would allow a borrower with $100,000 in income to get a $457,000 loan, compared to $403,000 at the higher rate, the Maximum Mortgage Calculator shows.
If a lower rate makes buying a home possible, it’s something to celebrate. But what if you have your pick of affordable homes? Does it make financial sense to reach for the most expensive one you can get?
If home values were rising by 10%, 15% or 20% a year, it might make sense, in theory. But many buyers who followed that logic three or four years ago are now among the estimated 15 million underwater homeowners who owe more than their homes are worth.
Over long periods, home prices rise about 4% a year, about 1 percentage point above the average inflation rate. Stocks average closer to 10% a year, and they’re more “liquid,” meaning it’s easier to sell when you worry prices will fall or you see a more appealing alternative.