The breach of the United States debt ceiling would have a significant impact on the housing market, like a natural disaster. Just like areas affected by hurricanes or snowstorms, there would be a decline in home selling and buying activity. This was observed in Florida after Hurricane Ian, where the number of homes accepting offers dropped by over 50%. However, the market tends to recover once the turmoil subsides.
The severity of the economic disaster resulting from breaching the debt ceiling depends on how quickly Congress raises the limit. Locations with a high concentration of federal employees, contractors, vendors, and military personnel, such as Washington D.C. and Virginia Beach, VA, would be most affected. These individuals would likely be reluctant to make significant financial commitments like buying a home due to potential income loss.
Areas with a large proportion of older people, such as Florida and Maine, would also face disruption due to missed social security payments. Retirees relying on social security income would be hesitant to spend, which would slow down economic activity and homebuying. However, places like Salt Lake City and Minneapolis, with relatively young populations and fewer federal employees, would be less affected by the debt ceiling crisis.
Additionally, swings in mortgage interest rates would impact the broader housing market. Fear of a U.S. debt default would push rates up since it increases the risk of all U.S. investments, including mortgages. However, if a default leads to an increased recession risk, rates could decrease as the Fed lowers short-term interest rates to stimulate economic growth.
For potential homebuyers, breaching the debt ceiling might present an opportunity to secure a better mortgage rate. Monitoring the news and staying informed about rate changes is crucial. Locking in an interest rate with a float-down option can provide the flexibility to take advantage of lower rates if they occur.
Nevertheless, economic uncertainty might lead sellers to withdraw from the market, exacerbating the already low inventory levels. This could result in increased competition among buyers. To prepare, homebuyers should get pre-approved for a mortgage in advance and set alerts for homes that match their preferences.
Overall, the breach of the debt ceiling is expected to constrict housing supply more than demand, leading to a negative impact on the volume of home sales rather than home prices. Once the debt ceiling is lifted, the housing market is expected to return to normalcy.