How The Federal Debt Will Affect Mortgages And Real Estate

There is a new threat to the mortgage market, which is the federal debt debacle playing out in Congress. It all boils down to this.

If the Congress cannot authorize the rise in the country’s debt ceiling then the United States of America will have to default on some of its payments. The whole economy would be adversely affected and that includes the housing market. That’s because a default will push up interest rates on every form of credit including mortgages. Some analysts are predicting that the interest rate increase could be as much as 1 percent.

It is said that 95 of every 100 home loans being written today are put into mortgage-backed securities that are guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or Ginnie Mae. When they guarantee securities, that guarantee is coming from the U.S. federal government. The inability to raise the debt ceiling would mean that the value of these guarantees would plummet because the U.S. government would have to default on some payments.

The way the system works is that when the value of the securities drop, then the securities market would immediately demand a much larger rate premium on new mortgage backed securities to compensate for the greater risk. The results will be sharply higher interest rates charged to new borrowers. The adverse effect on borrowing will not just be one immediate reaction by the markets. Instead, it will be spread out for years. If there is a serious and extended problem, U.S. bond holders like China will demand higher interest rates. This will ripple through all the markets and cause the further increase of interest rates in the mortgage market. Of course, this, as well as problems in other markets resulting from such a move by bond holders will slow economic growth more and the results would be higher mortgage rates, a double dip recession or — the worst result of all — a full scale depression.

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