It might seem like a stretch to argue that the financial crisis in Greece could have major ripples for the housing industry in the U.S., but there are important indicators worth paying attention to. The main reason this might feel like a stretch is because many people are aware of the crisis in Greece, but not what it really looks like. It turns out that while Greece might have a short term impact on the mortgage market, it isn’t lasting and not really the kind of assistance lenders or borrowers might have been hoping for.
The default crisis in Greece has generated concerns all over the world, which is why many investors recently sought to rely on credit markets with Treasury or Mortgage Backed securities in recent weeks. This certainly is not the first time that investor dollars have looked for save haven in credit markets, but it’s because of this very fact that we can draw the connection to U.S. mortgages. When investor dollars are focused on credit markets, interest rates get pushed down.
What is happening in the U.S. is that rates are rising, potentially keeping many out of the market for a new home. Rates are going up without any help from the Federal Reserve, either. There’s also not a lot of indication that the economy is going to bounce back in a robust manner, which is why it’s important to put the Greece situation in perspective. The Fed has not raised short-term rates on mortgages in over two years, but rates are climbing anyways.
As the date got closer for Greece to make a massive $1.7 billion payment out to the IMF, the mortgage industry was waiting to see how investors would react. Many potential homeowners hoped that the rates would be pushed down when lenders inevitably headed for credit markets. Lenders, too, thought that lower rates might help draw potential borrowers out into the market to snap up a home.
On the night the payment was due at the end of June, as money flowed into the credit markets, interest rates for mortgages decreased approximately one quarter or one percent. Mortgage lenders were hopeful that the continued problems in Greece would force rates to go even lower. The break, however, was only temporary, and they only moved slightly down to begin with.
Shortly after Greece defaulted, mortgage rates essentially bounced back to where they were before. This means that the break hoped for just didn’t have any long-term or real traction, leaving lenders right back where they were before.