Federal Reserve gears up for September meeting; will rates finally hold steady?

Sarah Sharkey
Military VA Loan contributor

The Federal Open Market Committee’s next meeting is scheduled for September 19, 2023. A policy update, which will include any rate adjustments, is expected to be announced on September 20. As the next meeting date approaches, all eyes are on the decision-makers at the Federal Reserve.

Let’s explore what experts expect in the coming meeting and what that could mean for home buyers.

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What the experts expect

The CME FedWatch Tool, a tool investors use to predict Fed policy changes, indicates that there is over a 90% chance that the Fed will keep interest rates the same at the meeting later this month. As of September 6, there’s less than a 10% chance the Fed will increase the federal funds rate.

Although this tool is helpful, it’s not a foolproof estimation. In August, Jerome H. Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve, made a speech at the Jackson Hole Symposium. Powell kicked things off by saying, “It is the Fed’s job to bring inflation down to our 2 percent goal, and we will do so. We have tightened policy significantly over the past year. Although inflation has moved down from its peak — a welcome development — it remains too high. We are prepared to raise rates further if appropriate, and intend to hold policy at a restrictive level until we are confident that inflation is moving sustainably down toward our objective.”

It’s impossible to know what will ultimately come out of the FOMC meeting. But many expect rates to stand where they are.

Could mortgage rates fall?

Mortgage interest rates have been on the rise since March 2022. Until that point, American home buyers were enjoying historically low interest rates on home loans. But that all changed when interest rates started climbing.

Since March 2022, mortgage interest rates have increased dramatically. From an average of 3.76% on 30-year fixed-rate loans in March 2022, rates are currently sitting at 7.18% for the same loan type. Rising rates mean more expensive loan options for prospective homeowners. In some households, higher interest rates have put a home purchase out of reach.

If the Federal Reserve pauses its ongoing battle against inflation, interest rates will remain steady at the upcoming meeting. For potential home buyers, this pause will allow mortgage rates to remain where they are for now. The interest rate stability could be a game-changer for anyone looking to buy a home.

Beyond holding rates steady, some experts foresee a pause in interest rate hikes, leading to a drop in home loan interest rates. More stability in the market could allow lenders to offer slightly lower rates for home buyers.

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What this means for you

If you are looking to take out a loan of any kind, a pause on interest rate hikes is a welcome reprieve. At the very least, you won’t face any higher interest rates. But in the best-case scenario, you can take advantage of the market’s temporary stability to lock in a slightly lower interest rate.

For anyone looking to purchase a home, a pause in rate hikes could be the signal that the cooling housing market has been waiting for. Any dip in mortgage rates could reignite the hot market conditions that persisted throughout 2021.

If you want to make a mortgage move, by either purchasing a new house or refinancing your current mortgage loan, a pause on interest rate hikes might be the appropriate time to act on your plans.

Future rate hikes

If the Federal Reserve doesn’t increase interest rates at the upcoming meeting, it will mark a big change. We’ve been seeing rates climb for over a year. A pause to higher rates would be a welcome reprieve.

Of course, we can only wait to see what the Fed will do at the next meeting. But even if interest rate hikes are paused for this meeting, it’s possible rate hikes will continue at the next meeting. After all, Powell’s recent speech made it clear that taming inflation is still the top priority for the Federal Reserve.

If you are planning to take out a home loan in the near future, keeping an eye on the changing interest rate market could make a big difference. A higher interest rate could eat into your home purchase budget, which means locking in the lowest possible rate is critical.

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