Mortgage rates just hit 8%—should you still buy a home?

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With average rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages hitting 8% on Wednesday, you might be thinking twice about buying a home, even if you can afford one.

But if you're trying to decide between buying now or waiting, remember that there's no guarantee that rates or home prices will get cheaper in 2024.

The real estate market hasn't been favorable to buyers recently: Median home prices have shot up 26% since 2020. And 30-year fixed mortgage rates have more than doubled, from an average of 3.72% in January 2020 to 8% as of Oct. 18, 2023.

Worse yet for buyers, mortgage rates could keep rising for the rest of 2023.

If you're thinking about buying a home, here's what to consider.

So, should you buy a home?

Even with the "tricky" dynamics of high prices and fluctuating mortgage rates in the real estate market, buyers shouldn't necessarily try to time the market with their purchase, Tracy Kasper, president of the National Association of Realtors, said Thursday during CNBC's Financial Advisor Summit.

"Interest rates are high, but we also anticipate that they will go down. There will be opportunities to refinance" later, she said.

The National Association of Realtors expects 30-year fixed mortgage rates to fall to 6% by the end of 2024. That's similar to forecasts in the 6% to 7% range by the National Association of Home Builders, Mortgage Bankers Association and Wells Fargo.

Aside from mortgage rates, home prices are another consideration.

"Buyers should realize that they can effectively renegotiate their mortgage rate if rates fall simply by refinancing," says Robert Johnson, chairman and CEO at Economic Index Associates, a firm that creates investable indices. "However, one can't renegotiate the price one pays for their home."

Buyers have some agency when first purchasing a home though. With the real estate market softening due to high mortgage rates in late 2022 and early 2023, home prices have become "negotiable, even if they are not posted as such online," says Erin Sykes, chief economist at Nest Seekers International.

Even so, softness in the real estate market isn't expected to last. Home prices are expected to keep rising in 2024, although more modestly than the double-digit price growth seen between 2020 and 2022. NAR expects home prices to rise by 2.6% in 2024, while Zillow expects home prices to increase by 4.9% between August 2023 and August 2024.

These price increases reflect a chronic lack of supply, as the U.S. has a deficit of about 3.8 million units of housing needed to meet the demand, according to Freddie Mac's most recent estimates.

While many existing homeowners may be reluctant to sell their homes and give up their low-interest mortgages, that could change if mortgage rates fall closer to 5% to 6%, says Mike Hardy, managing partner at Churchill Mortgage. If that happens, homeowners "that have a 3 to 4% interest rate will be more willing to sell and buy."

This would allow "more renters to get off the sidelines and become buyers" and create an "extremely competitive market, mirroring what we saw at the peak of the pandemic," he says.

However, that would also mean higher home prices, which is bad news for buyers putting off a home purchase until 2024 or later.

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