In case you haven’t heard, the Brits voted for their country to leave the European Union. Whether that really occurs might remain to be seen, but there’s no doubt the vote to exit the EU has already had a major impact on financial markets. As in, maybe wait a while before you look at your 401(k) values.
Obviously, the vote did a number in the currency markets – the British pound taking a beating and safe havens like the Yen benefitting. That’s awesome if you’re a currency trader who bet correctly, but what about the rest of us? What’s the answer to the question we really want to know…
“Does Brexit affect U.S. real estate?”
The answer is already yes. Well, sort of.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, interest rates on home loans are low. They’ve been low. When we thought they were going to go higher, they stayed low. And after the Brexit vote, they went lower.
There was a statistic somebody came up with that showed that since the beginning of the year to now, rates have dropped low enough for a homebuyer to be able to afford a house with an 8-percent higher sales price. In other words, whatever your monthly payment was going to be on that $200,000 home you had your eye on in January, the same payment will get you a $216,000 home. It gives buyers some wiggle room.
And it was a crazy spring for home buying. Even though there were signs of the overall economy weakening, it was the strongest spring for home sales volume in a while. Lower rates only fuel the fire.
There will also likely be some international buyers who will turn to the U.S. for real estate investment as now it appears a safer play than in the U.K, or, maybe, anywhere in Europe. This in no way means the typical U.S. homebuyer is going to face any stiffer competition from foreign buyers. It’s likely to affect commercial real estate investment the most, and maybe super high-end homes.
That said, a stronger dollar could also turn off international buyers. It would be safe to say that “destination” markets – the sand and sun states – will not attract as many wealthy buyers from the U.K.
There’s also legitimate concern that the already-softening U.S. economy will become softer. There are American companies that will face adversity because they have operations in Europe. What happens when those companies start laying off workers? What happens when stagnant wage growth here at home gets even more gummed up because of the problems overseas?
It’s hard to predict the answers to those questions. What’s easy to see, however, is a U.S. housing recovery that has endured some other unusual economic adversities and still chugged along.
One area of more concrete concern might be the availability of credit. I’ve written before that rising mortgage interest rates might actually help more people buy homes, as banks tend to loosen the purse strings when lending money is profitable. When rates are actually going lower, nothing’s getting looser. At least not for purchase loans. Less-risky refinances are what banks turn to when the reward isn’t as great, so homeowners in a position to refinance are actually probably in a pretty good position now.
So to sum this all up:
- Home sales are likely to continue strong, though price appreciation could slow as concerns for the overall economy produce fewer buyers.
- Foreign investment in some high-demand areas will likely tail off, especially from investors in the U.K.
- Lowered interest rates could tighten credit, although refinances should boom.
- It remains to be seen how a U.K recession will affect U.S. companies. Worsening employment figures here always impact home sales.
So the answer to the original question, “Does Brexit affect U.S. home sales?” is probably yes. How soon and how much, as well as what, specifically, remains to be seen.