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: Locked in — or trapped? Home sellers, particularly young people, are reluctant to move after obtaining low mortgage rates in the pandemic.

At first, they were worried about missing the boat of historically low mortgage rates. Now, homeowners feel stuck as they want to sell their homes — but can’t bear to give up those rates.

Historically low mortgage rates during the pandemic led to homeowners rushing to take out a mortgage or refinance their existing one to rates as low as 2%.

While some homeowners feel like they won the lottery with such low rates, others — particularly those who want to sell now — report feeling trapped, according to a report from Realtor.com.

Realtor.com surveyed over 1,200 recent or potential home sellers in February 2023.

Among those feeling stuck, younger generations felt the crunch more so than older Americans, the Realtor.com survey said. Nearly all (97%) of Generation Z, and 87% of millennials feel locked in by their current mortgage rates.

Out of those who were planning to sell anyway — for personal reasons — despite feeling locked in, Generation X formed the biggest share. 

Baby boomers, who recently edged out millennials when it comes to home-buying, were the least likely to feel locked in by their low mortgage rate. 

Trading in an lower mortgage rate for a higher one

As a result, “more than three-quarters of sellers feel ‘locked in’ to their current home due to a low mortgage rate,” Hannah Jones, economic data analyst at Realtor.com and author of the report, noted. 

More than half of the sellers surveyed said they planned to wait until rates come down before they sold. But the 30-year was averaging at 6.27% as of last Thursday, according to Freddie Mac FMCC, +9.09%. A year ago, the 30-year was at 5%.

Perhaps more surprisingly: One quarter of would-be sellers said they planned to sell soon, despite feeling locked in.

(Realtor.com is operated by News Corp subsidiary Move Inc., and MarketWatch is a unit of Dow Jones, also a subsidiary of News Corp.)

The lock-in effect may have lowered the number of listings

There is evidence that having a low 30-year fixed mortgage rate is holding people back from moving. This feeling of being “stuck” has resulted in a very low number of new listings on the market. 

New listings are down by 25% as compared to a year ago, Redfin said in a recent report, the biggest drop since May 2020 during the spread of the coronavirus.

Unsold housing inventory was at a 2.6-month supply, as of the latest count at the end of February, based on a report from the National Association of Realtors.

“Inventory levels are still at historic lows,” Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the NAR, said in that report. The next such report will be released on Thursday.

Home buyers have in recent months been pushed into new builds, unable to find good options in the resale market.

The National Association of Home Builders said on Monday that historically, only about 10% of the housing inventory was new construction — now new builds make up one-third of the total inventory. 

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