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Industry & Trends

Rates Remain the Big Question for the New Year

No single factor weighs heavier on the building and construction industry for 2024 than interest rates and how they impact the cost of mortgages.

This past year may not have been the worst of times for the building trade but it was far from the best. New housing and commercial building construction was severely impacted by rapidly rising interest rates driven by the Federal Reserve in an effort to curb inflation.

That campaign seems to have been largely effective as inflation has dropped dramatically from earlier rates as high as 8% down to just over 3% as 2023 ended. Still the Fed has not firmly indicated what it plans to do this year. Minutes from its recent meetings seem to suggest there will be no additional rate increases from the current 5.25% to 5.50% levels and that rates are likely to drop.

At these costs, new mortgages are ranging from 7.06% for a 30-year fixed to 5.98% for a 10-year fixed. During the worst of the pandemic mortgages went down to 2.65%, historically low. We are not likely to see those rock-bottom rates anytime soon.

Those Fed meeting notes are projecting cuts will start later this year, although it did not lay out the timetable. A New York Times report in December said there would be three cuts, though again there were no specifics on how big the cuts would be nor when they would happen. 

Some of the nation’s leading financial institutions are projecting more specific forecasts, which of course means better mortgage rates leading to more demand for housing. According to Bankrate.com, Goldman Sachs expects the Fed will cut interest rates by three quarter-point increments in March, May and June of this year. The online site said Bank of America is looking for four quarter-point rate cuts at every other meeting starting in March this year. 

Of course much can happen between these forecasts and what the Fed actually does. Two wars, a U.S. presidential election and all the other factors that impact the economy – employment, gas prices and other wild cards – can wipe out these projections in the time it takes to work up a new spreadsheet.

What can be safely said is that it appears the high interest rates that have bedeviled the building business the past 18 months have peaked and relief is in sight… if not exactly right around the corner.

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International Woodworking Fair
Tuesday–Friday
August 6–9, 2024

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*Building A opens 7:30 AM Tue-Fri

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