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Inflation, Interest Rates, Affordability To Shape Housing Market In Q4 And Beyond

From global economic trends to local housing affordability, numerous factors promise to shape the real estate market heading into the final quarter of the year. In general, the economic outlook both globally and within the U.S. remains subdued as we approach 2024, with many forecasters highlighting inflation and monetary policy as the drivers.

The Conference Board has predicted global GDP to grow by 2.9 percent in 2023, slowing to 2.5 percent in 2024. Emerging economies are expected to fare better than the U.S. and Europe, which are both anticipating lackluster performances once all is said and done this year. Although the U.S. economy has been surprisingly resilient in the aftermath of the pandemic, boasting strong employment numbers and healthy consumer spending, the Conference Board is anticipating a short and shallow recession in 2024, largely due to high interest rates, ongoing inflation, mounting consumer debt and dissipated consumer savings.

All of these factors are likely to prey on the housing market as well, and may serve to keep new homebuyers out of a market that has become increasingly unaffordable due to escalating interest rates and stubbornly limited inventory, which has kept prices elevated.

Chilly Q4 housing market

The housing market typically slows in the fourth quarter as buyers step away amid the approaching holidays. However, many industry pundits are predicting housing sales to slow faster than in years past due to the plethora of economic challenges homebuyers are facing.

In its September outlook report, Fannie Mae noted that mortgage origination activity had slowed to levels not seen since 2011.

“The new home market, which showed surprising strength over the first half of 2023, due in part to a limited inventory of existing homes for sale, may now be taking a breather,” Fannie Mae reported. “We forecast total home sales to be around 4.8 million in 2023, which would be the slowest annual pace since 2011 and 4.9 million in 2024. Similarly, our expectation for 2023 mortgage originations was downgraded from $1.60 trillion to $1.56 trillion in 2023 and from $1.92 trillion to $1.88 trillion in 2024.”

Further exacerbating the situation, some buyers are sitting out due to fears that housing has become overvalued and are hesitant to buy a home that may lose its value, if the market should take a sudden downturn. This is a regional reality, however. While the run-up in prices over the past few years in several western cities is ripe for a correction, many markets across much of the country increased at a moderate and sustainable pace, boding well for price stability.

New home sales decline

Despite builder concessions to offset high interest rates, new home sales continued to drop as the summer waned.

Sales of newly built, single-family homes in August fell 8.7% to a 675,000 seasonally adjusted annual rate, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Builders continue to grapple with supply-side concerns in a market with poor levels of housing affordability,” said Alicia Huey, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a custom home builder and developer from Birmingham, Ala. “Higher interest rates price out demand, as seen in August, but also increase the cost of financing for builder and developer loans, adding another hurdle for building.”

As a result of all of these factors, builder confidence in the market for newly built single-family homes in September fell five points to 40, according to NAHB.

Consumer confidence mixed

With employment numbers on solid ground to date, consumers generally express optimism not only about their own jobs, but about available prospects in the larger market.

On the downside, the Conference Board noted in September that overall consumer confidence fell for the second month in a row in September with consumers expressing concern about rising prices, the volatile political situation and rising interest rates.

Interest rates: The wrench in the gears

Recognizing that the ongoing interest rate hikes are paralyzing the market, NAHB, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) and National Association of REALTORS (NAR) joined forces in October to ask the Federal Reserve to refrain from further rate hikes.

In their October 10 letter to the Fed, the organizations pointed out that a primary source of inflation has been housing, highlighting that in July alone, shelter inflation was responsible for 90% of the gain for consumer prices.

Rather than exacerbating the problem with higher interest rates, the organizations suggested the federal government should be focused on facilitating the construction of affordable housing.

“Sustained, widespread or further increases in interest rates make this economic goal more challenging by limiting lot development and home construction, exacerbating housing supply, and pricing out millions of households from the goal of homeownership,” the letter said.

In September, MBA SVP and Chief Economist Mike Fratantoni acknowledged that the FOMC is still considering further rate hikes and in addition signaled that much-anticipated rate cuts would come later and slower than anticipated in 2024. But he remained optimistic that 2024 would see a turnaround.

“We expect that inflation will continue to drop closer to the Fed’s target, the job market will continue to slow, and that mortgage rates should begin to reflect that the Fed’s moves in 2024 will be cuts – not further increases,” Fratantoni said in his commentary. “This should provide some relief in terms of better affordability for potential homebuyers.”


Limited affordable housing continues to plague the market overall. In part, homebuilders have begun to scale back the size and scope of amenities in their new builds to try to address the immediate issue of rising interest rates, but those efforts do not address the wider issue that can only be resolved by a concerted effort to address the problem on both the national and community level.

Affordable housing advocates offer several pathways to improved inventory, including incentivizing builders to build more affordable housing, increasing production of manufactured housing, addressing zoning and other restrictions that are preventing the creation of affordable housing where it is most needed, expanding the National Housing Trust Fund, and increasing resources for Federal affordable housing programs. The continued strength of the economy overall bodes well for a brighter 2024 for the housing market. However, the pace of recovery hinges on the FOMC effectively meeting its target to curb inflation, allowing interest rates to retreat. Concurrently, industry groups, local communities, and the federal government must tackle the pressing issue of housing affordability.

melodrama villain

Share the Message: Real Estate Participants Are Prime Targets for Fraud

If there is a buck to be made, fraudsters will figure out how to lie, cheat, steal, swindle, hoodwink, dupe, con and bamboozle their victims in an effort to drain the bank accounts of homebuyers and sellers, lenders, title agents and real estate agents.

The first step in defeating the criminals is to understand the types of schemes that are afoot. The next step is to educate parties to the real estate transaction, to raise awareness of potential scams, and identify the warning signs.

Here is an overview you can share outlining the most common real estate industry schemes that participants may encounter.

Mortgage fraud scams

There are two basic types of mortgage fraud: fraud for profit and fraud for property.

Fraud for profit often involves real estate professionals or investors, for instance:

  • Property flipping, where an investor purchases a property and then quickly resells it at a profit after acquiring an inflated appraisal.
  • Equity skimming, where a team of fraudsters using straw buyers and false documentation acquire – and often quickly transfer a property – for the purpose of collecting rent without ever intending to pay the mortgage or property taxes, eventually letting the property fall into foreclosure.
  • Air loan, where a fraudster uses a straw or non-existent buyer to acquire mortgage funds for a non-existent property.
  • Appraisal fraud, where a real estate agent pays off an appraiser to inflate the value of the property for the purpose of increasing their commission.

Fraud for property often involves a buyer providing false information to qualify for a mortgage, for example:

  • The borrower falsifies employment verification letters or uses stolen pay stubs or tax returns.
  • The borrower steals someone else’s identity, including Social Security numbers, birth dates, and addresses, to acquire a mortgage.

Real estate scams

In a real estate scam, a fraudster swindles the buyer by misrepresenting the value of the property or by selling a property they do not actually own. Here are a few examples:

Home inspection scams: A fake home inspector is hired to perform an inspection for the purpose of deliberately hiding potential problems with the property.

Vacant lot scams: A fraudster identifies an empty lot free of liens – and often owned by an out of state owner – then pretending to be the owner, lists the property with a real estate agent. The fraudster often lists the property at below market value to ensure a quick sale.

Fraudulent deed scams: Through identity theft or fraudulent deed transfer, the scammer transfers title to a property to themselves and then sells the property out from under the true owner.

Fraud against consumers

Consumers are the most vulnerable targets when it comes to fraudulent activity in the real estate transaction because they generally are not aware of many of the schemes used to infiltrate the deal or prey on their ignorance. Wire transfer fraud and foreclosure rescue schemes continue to be the most damaging and costly to consumers.

Wire transfer fraud is the most devastating of all consumer fraud schemes, as it often wipes out the assets of the individual homebuyer or seller. In a wire fraud scheme, the criminal often infiltrates a real estate transaction through email phishing tactics, then poses as a participant in the transaction for the purpose of convincing the buyer or title company to divert funds to a fraudulent account.

Foreclosure rescue scams are also on the rise. Here are four different tactics fraudsters employ:

Negotiation fake out: The fraudster takes money from a distressed homeowner promising to negotiate an agreement with the servicer or lender and then fails to provide any meaningful assistance.

Bait and switch: The homeowner is asked to sign documents purportedly to bring the mortgage current but in actuality the owner unknowingly signs a document transferring the deed to the fraudster.

Rent-to-own: The homeowner signs a deed to the scammer under a rent-to-own agreement believing they will be able to buy the home back, but instead the fraudster sells the home without the knowledge of the owner.

Equity skimming: The owner signs a deed to the fraudster with the promise they will profit from a refinance, but instead, the fraudster leases back the property to the owner, pockets the owner’s money and eventually lets the property fall into foreclosure.

Text, email or phone scams

Of course, you don’t need to be actively involved in a real estate transaction to be the target of criminals. Text, email and phone scams are also on the rise and victims fall prey to these schemes in alarming numbers. Recent homebuyers and sellers may be particularly vulnerable to these types of scams amidst the commotion of moving and changing information to reflect new residences.

Here are a few of the most common:

Bank fraud alerts: You may receive a text, email or phone call alerting you to “suspicious activity” in your bank account. You may be asked to provide sensitive information to verify your identity or be invited to click on a link that leads you directly into the hands of the fraudster for the purpose of identity theft or getting access to your account.

Delivery problems: We are so accustomed to getting alerts from our delivery services, whether it is the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx or UPS, that we don’t think twice before clicking on a link that alerts us to a delivery problem or delay. A fake alert may direct you to a website that requests a fee to correct the delivery error or requires you to enter a credit card number or provide information that could lead to identity theft.

Fake Amazon orders: You may get a notice from Amazon or other online retail service impersonators asking you to verify an order that you know you never placed. The fraudster will offer to fix the problem for you, if you will just give them information, credit card numbers, or access to your account, all of which spells trouble if you follow through.

Subscription cancellations: Threats are a fraudster’s most effective tactic. When you learn that your subscription to something you rely on every day is about to be cancelled, i.e., video conferencing solution, anti-virus software or a favorite streaming service, you may not think twice before clicking on the re-subscribe button and providing your credit card information.

“Free” gifts: Sometimes fraudsters pretend to be one of your favorite service providers or shopping sites and offer to send a “free” gift if you will just give them your credit card information to pay for the shipping cost.

Red flags of fraud

Scam artists are very adept at preying on the emotions of their victims. Here are a few red flags to be aware of should someone reach out to you under the guise of one of these schemes:

  • They impersonate a company, organization, or government agency you are connected with.
  • They instill fear in you by suggesting there is a problem.
  • They entice you by promising something free or saying you won a prize.
  • They pressure you by insisting that you must act quickly to avert a disaster.
  • They require you to provide birth date, social security information or credit card numbers that you know you should never give out.

Fraud schemes like these are successful only when their mark cooperates. In all cases, it is important to slow down and think about what we are being told or asked to do. If your instincts are telling you something is off, it is best to investigate before responding.

If you are concerned that the request that is being made or the information provided may be illegitimate, it is crucial that you reach out directly to the company or individual by a phone number already in your records, rather than respond to an inbound phone call, text or email.

Final note

At Alliant National, we invite agents to share their stories to help us spread the word on how to protect all of our customers from becoming victims of fraud. Please email us your stories at: fraudhotline@alliantnational.com.

In addition, agents who prevent a fraudulent transaction from being insured by Alliant National may qualify for a reward through Alliant National’s Crime Watch Program. Please visit https://alliantnational.com/title-claims/crime-watch-program/ for more information.

Financial Technology concept in foreground with miniature house, 2 people and computer in background; FinCEN logo in bottom left corner

FinCEN releases proposed timeline for rulemaking under CTA and AMLA

This spring, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) announced its plan to release over the coming months multiple final rules and proposed regulations required by the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA) and the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 (AMLA), including highly anticipated rules that would codify Geographic Targeting Order (GTO) disclosure requirements.

Congress enacted CTA and AMLA to address the growing problem of criminals and foreign actors funneling illicit funds into the U.S. financial system and, of particular concern, into the U.S. real estate market. It is estimated that more than 2 million corporations and LLCs are formed in the U.S. each year, many established by criminal elements as a cover for terrorist financing, drug dealing or human trafficking. Law makers are hoping the proposed regulations under both CTA and AMLA will make it easier for federal and state law enforcement agencies to track and unmask criminal enterprises.

Among its many obligations under these new laws, FinCEN has been tasked with creating and managing a national registry of beneficial owner information (BOI). Previously, BOI reporting was restricted to larger corporations under SEC regulations, but this has provided a very limited pool of information and was largely ineffective in identifying the true extent of the money laundering activities. Under CTA, Congress is attempting to capture a broader swath of data. FinCEN is required to issue three regulations to implement this new registry.

Under the AMLA, FinCEN is also required to issue regulations addressing whistleblower incentives, real estate transaction reports and records, counter terrorism risk assessments, and more.

Here is an overview of FinCEN’s timeline.

July 2023 – Whistleblower incentives and protections

FinCEN has created an Office of the Whistleblower and currently accepts tips while they are developing formal regulations under the Anti-Money Laundering Whistleblower Improvement Act, which was signed into law on December 29, 2022.

The agency intends to issue an NPRM in July to address provisions of the Act entitling whistleblowers to an award of between 10 and 30 percent of the value of monetary sanctions above $1 million collected as a result of an enforcement action. Provisions will include the establishment of a Financial Integrity Fund to be administered by the Treasury Department.

August 2023 – Real estate transaction reports and records

In December 2021, FinCEN issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) to solicit public comment on potential requirements under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and AMLA for certain persons involved in real estate transactions to collect, report, and retain information. In August, FinCEN will release a NPRM that will address the scope of the BSA requirements, for instance the type of real estate transactions affected, i.e. residential or commercial and any monetary thresholds, as well as what persons or entities involved in the real estate transaction will be responsible for the reporting requirements.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) submitted a comment to FinCEN highlighting the Geographic Targeting Orders (GTOs) program established in 2016 and asked the agency to codify and strengthen the disclosure requirements beyond the pilot program. The GTOs require title insurance companies to report identifying information about the individuals who own 25% or more of the equity interest of a corporate entity used in all-cash purchases of residential real estate in the geographic regions and monetary thresholds identified in the pilot program.

Look for the August NPRM to include elements of the GTO pilot program.

September 2023 – BOI Access and Safeguards Final Rule

A final rule entitled Beneficial Ownership Information Access and Safeguards, and Use of FinCEN Identifiers for Entities will be issued by FinCEN in September. 

The proposed regulations will establish protocols to protect the security and confidentiality of the BOI that will be reported to FinCEN pursuant to Section 6403 of the CTA and will establish the framework for authorized recipients’ access to the BOI reported. The final rule will also specify when and how reporting companies can use FinCEN identifiers to report the BOI of entities. 

This rule is the second of three rulemakings FinCEN is required to issue under the CTA. The first rule, the BOI Reporting Rule, was issued on September 30, 2022, and requires most corporations, limited liability companies, and other similar entities created in or registered to do business in the United States to report information about their beneficial owners to FinCEN.

November 2023 – SARs pilot program

In November, FinCEN will issue a final rule establishing a limited-duration pilot program for sharing suspicious activity reports (SARs), in accordance with Section 6212 of AMLA.

The pilot program permits a financial institution with a SAR reporting obligation to share SARs and information related to SARs with the institution’s foreign branches, subsidiaries, and affiliates for the purpose of combating illicit finance risks, subject to approval and conditions set by FinCEN. The rule aims to ensure that the sharing of information is limited by the requirements of federal and state law enforcement. It addresses potential concerns of the intelligence community and is subject to appropriate standards and requirements regarding data security and the confidentiality of personally identifiable information.

December 2023 – National exam and supervision priorities

In December, FinCEN is expected to issue an NPRM implementing section 6101(b) of the AMLA that establishes national exam and supervision priorities.

The proposed rule incorporates a risk assessment requirement for financial institutions and requires financial institutions to incorporate AML/CFT Priorities into risk-based programs. Once finalized, this proposed rule will affect all financial institutions subject to regulations under the BSA and have AML/CFT program obligations.

December 2023 – Customer Due Diligence Rule

The third required rulemaking in the BOI series, the Customer Due Diligence (CDD) NPRM is expected to be issued in December. Section 6403(d) of the CTA requires FinCEN to revise its CDD requirements for financial institutions to account for the changes created by the two other rulemakings in the BOI series. This rule is significant because it will address discrepancies between how the CDD Rule and the CTA define beneficial owner and questions regarding how financial institutions can or should access BOI to comply with the CDD Rule.

Final note

Each of these rules carries unknown and potentially weighty requirements for the mortgage and real estate industries in general and in some aspects specifically for the title insurance industry. At Alliant National, we are committed to keeping you informed about regulatory requirements that could affect your operations. Stay tuned for more updates as FinCEN continues to move through the rulemaking process.

business person with fingers crossed behind their back

Foreclosure Rescue Scams Can Spell Trouble For Title Agents

Foreclosure rescue scams were rampant during the Great Recession as homeowners found themselves underwater with their mortgages facing foreclosure. As economic conditions slow and home prices decline in some regions, now is the time to watch for properties being sold under the guise of a foreclosure rescue. Here is a quick overview of different types of foreclosure rescue scams and a few tips on what to do if you suspect your transaction may involve a foreclosure rescue.

Foreclosure rescue scams

Foreclosure rescue scams can be as simple as taking money from a distressed homeowner promising to negotiate an agreement with the servicer or lender and then failing to provide any meaningful assistance. Some schemes require the homeowner to make mortgage payments to the scammer, who promises to manage the payments on their behalf, but instead, takes the money and disappears.

The scams that title agents must watch out for are those that result in a transfer of title to a foreclosure rescue company or investor. Insuring the title in a foreclosure rescue scam transaction may result in a claim when the new owner attempts to evict the tenant – the original owner of the property – and gets sued by the tenant. Becoming a party to a lawsuit could lead to reputational damage for your agency and other potential harm.

Here are a few such scenarios.

Bait and switch: The homeowner is asked to sign documents purportedly to bring the mortgage current, but the owner unknowingly signs a deed transferring the ownership to the fraudster. The homeowner is told they can remain in the property while the details are being worked out with the mortgage company. When the ownership transfers, the property is sold to someone else by the fraudster, and the unsuspecting former owner is evicted by the new owner.

Rent-to-own: The homeowner signs a deed transferring ownership to the scammer under a rent-to-own agreement believing they will be able to buy the home back. The scammer promises the homeowner they will not record the deed, but the deed is recorded. As with the scenario above, the home is then sold to someone else without the knowledge of the original owner.

Equity skimming: The owner signs a deed to the scammer who promises to share a portion of the profit from the home sale. Instead, the scammer rents out the home, pockets the proceeds, fails to make mortgage payments, and may record a deed back to the original owner. When the home foreclosure is finalized, the owner is on the hook for the debt and has lost ownership of the home.

Some rescue services are legitimate, but even in those cases, the owner may not understand that they have lost ownership of their home.

Foreclosure scam Red Flags

Transactions involving foreclosure rescue scams often have similar details. Here are some Red Flags to keep in mind:

  • A recently recorded deed from the owner to the investor
  • An investor who brings an already executed deed to the title agent and asks the agent to record the deed
  • An existing mortgage by the prior owner is in foreclosure
  • The prior owner is still living in a property being sold by an investor or foreclosure rescue company (Scammers may call them “tenants” and ask that you do not disturb them as a condition of the sale).

Thankfully, if you spot one of more of these Red Flags, there are steps you can take to help determine whether the transaction is legitimate.

Trust but verify

A title search will show if there is a notice of foreclosure against the property. If this is the case, and the prior owner still resides at the property, a good first step may be to call or write that person to determine:

  • Why they are still residing at the property
  • If they understand they have transferred ownership of their home to the investor
  • Whether they are aware that their home is now being sold to someone else.

Be wary of an investor attempting to steer you away from contacting the previous owner of the property or the lending company. It is best that you communicate directly with all parties, the prior owner and the lenders, letting them know about the impending transaction.

Open communication is also critical in the case of a simultaneous flip.  The original owner may not be aware of the second sale for an increased amount.  The new lender may include a requirement in the closing instructions that property flips be disclosed or that they are prohibited.  Disclosures should be in writing. It is also best to communicate directly with the lender, and not just a mortgage broker.

Here are a few more things to keep in mind in the fight against foreclosure rescue fraudsters:

  • Trust your instincts if you are feeling uneasy over a pending transaction or uncover unusual circumstances.
  • Watch out for odd or unusual requests from the buyer, seller, or investor.
  • As the neutral third party, it’s best to communicate openly with all parties to the transaction. Do not shy away from asking questions.
  • Be wary of any party to the transaction requesting secrecy.

Final note

At Alliant National, we invite agents to share their stories and thoughts on how we can all help prevent fraudulent transactions. Please email us at: fraudhotline@alliantnational.com.

In addition, agents who prevent a fraudulent transaction from being insured by Alliant National may qualify for a reward through Alliant National’s Crime Watch Program. Learn more at: https://alliantnational.com/title-claims/crime-watch-program/

A conceptual graphic showing the interconnectedness of the banking and housing industries.

Banking Turmoil Deepens Recession Concerns, Clouds Mortgage Lending Outlook

As if there wasn’t enough uncertainty coming into 2023, the failure of three banks in March has darkened the outlook for an economy that otherwise seemed to be holding its own in the first quarter.

The banks affected had significant exposure to technology and cryptocurrency, and included:

  • Silvergate Bank (cryptocurrency) announced on March 8 it was winding down due to losses in its loan portfolio
  • Silicon Valley Bank (technology-start up lender) taken over by California regulators after experiencing a run on the bank due to its failure to raise needed bank capital
  • Signature Bank (cryptocurrency) closed by bank regulators, citing systemic risks

Although state regulators, the FDIC and the U.S. Treasury Department all stepped in quickly to attend to the failed banks and reassure the entire banking system, there were plenty of investors, industry pundits and business owners with the jitters in the weeks that followed.

The question for the housing industry is, how might the banking industry problems affect the long-term outlook for real estate sales in general and interest rates in particular?

Credit tightening

The most immediate concern highlighted by many industry analysts is that nervous banks may tighten their credit standards, affecting every aspect of lending, from consumer credit and auto loans to residential and commercial mortgage loans.

Susan M. Wachter, Wharton professor of real estate and finance, said bank investors are anxious about real estate lending because commercial real estate lending has become “unattractive” due to rising vacancies.

Speaking on the Wharton Business Daily radio show that airs on SiriusXM, Wachter said, “Banks are likely to respond to their investors’ distress by lending less, and this is not a good thing for real estate.”

But she quickly qualified her remarks by noting that an “economy-wide credit crunch” would most likely be avoided, given the federal government’s quick response that quelled fears within the banking industry.

The real estate industry is also keeping its eye on what this all means for the economy in general and further potential interest rate escalation.

Looming recession

Responding to stronger-than-expected economic data, Fannie Mae’s Economic and Strategic Research (ESR) Group revised upward its first quarter 2023 GDP forecast in its latest monthly commentary, projecting a modest recession to begin in the second half of 2023, rather than in Q2 as previously forecasted.

“While uncertainty has risen following turbulence in the banking sector, the ESR Group noted that bank failures often foreshadow economic downturns,” Fannie Mae stated. “As such, the ESR Group believes that the recent events may act as the catalyst that tips an already precarious economy into recession, primarily via the combination of tighter lending standards among small and midsized regional banks and weakened business and consumer confidence.”

In its March 2023 release, the Conference Board mirrored Fannie Mae’s outlook, saying U.S. GDP growth defied expectations in late 2022, and early 2023 data has shown unexpected strength. The Conference Board said this is due to the fact that consumers have resisted the dual headwinds of high inflation and rising interest rates.

In light of this, they upgraded the Q1 2023 forecast to 1 percent growth. However, they also continue to forecast that the U.S. economy will slip into recession in 2023 and expect GDP growth to contract for three consecutive quarters starting in Q2 2023, largely due to persistent inflation and Federal Reserve hawkishness.

Minutes from the March Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting released on April 12 also indicated that the potential economic effects of the recent banking-sector developments would most likely result in the economy falling into a mild recession starting later this year. But given the underlying economic fundamentals, the participants saw this as short-term, with a recovery over the next two years.

Inflation and interest rate outlook

Inflation dropped from a high of 9.1% in June to 6.5% in December, but then slowed its pace of decline, easing only a half-percent to 6% over the course of the first two months of 2023. This slower pace did not impress the Federal Reserve, and so in spite of the banking crisis that was evolving during its March meeting, they raised the federal funds rate another 25 basis points.

However, the March numbers were more encouraging, with the CPI rising only 5% over the last 12 months, according to the April 12 release by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This represents the smallest 12-month increase since the period ending May 2021, and shows that inflation is continuing to cool off in the wake of dramatic increases in interest rates.

More than half of respondents in Bankrate’s First-Quarter Economic Indicator poll said the all-important federal funds rate is likely to peak at 5-5.25%, indicating they believe the Fed will only raise rates one more time. Slowing inflation, the banking crisis, and recessionary indicators could all play into the Federal Reserve’s decision to put an end to rate hikes for the remainder of 2023.

In that same survey, more than 80 percent of respondents said the Fed was unlikely to make any move to cut interest rates until 2024, in an attempt to give the economy more time to cool down.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, said he believed the Federal Reserve would take into account the banking crisis and its overall effect on the economy in considering further rate hikes, opining in an interview for Realtor Magazine, “The Silicon Valley Bank failure, along with a few other banks, means that the Federal Reserve cannot be so aggressive in raising its short-term interest rates. Therefore, mortgage rates will decline.”

In the final analysis

The economy has consistently reacted in non-traditional ways since the onset of the pandemic, constantly surprising pundits with its persistently healthy fundamentals. The unexpected strength in the employment sector in the first quarter of 2023 and the better-than-expected growth in GDP were acting together to moderate recessionary concerns until the March bank failures reawakened those fears.

The same can be said for the real estate industry. In spite of high mortgage rates, real estate sales showed some improvement in February, and homebuilder sentiment has been on the upswing with new permits on the rise.

But the banking crisis has added another element of uncertainty into the mortgage and real estate industry for the foreseeable future. While it could precipitate lower interest rates as Yun suggested, tightening lending standards could well offset any gains realized.

Only time will tell how all of this will play out as the industry continues to keep a watchful eye on how the Federal Reserve handles both the banking crisis and interest rates in the coming months.

This blog contains general information only, not intended to be relied upon as, nor a substitute for, specific professional advice. We accept no responsibility for loss occasioned to any purpose acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material on this blog.

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