If you look up the term “normalcy bias,” you find yourself swimming in psychological theoretician talk, most of which deals with people’s response to disastrous situations. The theory behind it is that when faced with the unknown, there is a tendency among even rational human beings to misconstrue new (and even dangerous) circumstances as being more normal—hence, safe—than is really the case.
What this has to do with Madison real estate is not as farfetched as you might think. Ask anyone who wanted to buy a house in the early 1980s, and you will probably get an earful. Because of inflation since then, the asking prices for local homes back then seems pretty inviting today…until we check into the then-current mortgage interest rates. A home that today is valued at $250,000 would have had an asking price in 1983 dollars of just over $94,000—a real bargain. But the October 1981 30-year mortgage interest rate was a colossal 18.39%! In today’s dollars, the monthly payment on a mortgage for the full amount would be a daunting $4,295! That’s not even counting taxes and insurance.
No one is predicting that 18% mortgage interest rates are right around the corner—or even any time in the future—but no rational observer is predicting that they will remain at today’s historic lows, either. Not for nothing is “normalcy bias” also known as “analysis paralysis.” There’s more than idle speculation behind the suspicion that change is in the air.
A case in point came last week when Madison mortgage interest rate watchers got a peek into the rate-setters’ minds. The November 2 release of the Federal Reserve’s notes from their last Open Market Committee meeting wasn’t entertaining reading, but did shed some light on what lies ahead:
- Committee members agree that their goal remains 2% inflation (it’s less than that now) coupled with “maximum employment and price stability.”
- They believe the case for a rate hike has strengthened but is not yet sufficient to raise rates.
- The Committee expects economic conditions will evolve to warrant gradual increases in the Fed funds rate.
- Two members voted to raise the target rate ½ to ¾% without waiting further.
All in all, if future Madison home buyers have a normalcy bias which leads them to expect today’s rates will be around indefinitely, it’s safe to say they are more likely to be disappointed than not. That makes right now an excellent time to take advantage of all the bargains currently populating the Madison market—which means also giving me a call!
Jen Stauter Kornstedt
HomeTeam4U-Stark Company Realtors
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