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Brexit Could Make Your House Worth More

Jun 24, 2016

Financial markets continue to parse the effects of Britain's historic decision to leave the European Union, and the news has impacted assets ranging from government bonds, to gold, to the stock market.

But for most Americans, the most important consequence of the decision will be Brexit's affect on U.S. real estate prices. It may seem odd that a political decision in the U.K. could have any impact on American housing prices, but such is the nature of an increasingly interconnected global economy.

First, one of the most immediate effects of the move was to send yields on U.S. government debt tumbling, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury falling from 1.75% to a low of 1.43% in early morning trading Friday. That's going to put downward pressure on mortgage rates, though not much yet. Mortgage rates on 30-year fixed loans were only down 0.02 percentage points, according to NerdWallet, but mortgage rates, like gas prices typically move with delay, especially on the way down. All else equal, lower mortgage rates means higher home prices because low rates enables homebuyers to afford a more expensive home with the same income.

Furthermore, some analysts believe that Britain's exit from the EU could lead to added demand for American real estate, especially in major cities like New York and Los Angeles. According to KC Sanjay, Senior Real Estate Economist with Axiometrics, "International investors have been increasing their holdings in the U.S. over the past several years, as they have gained a better understanding of the American apartment market and appreciation of the sector’s profitability."

And that means that investors are primed to look at the U.S. real estate market as a reasonable alternative to the London market, which has long been a haven for the global rich to stow their excess wealth. With uncertainty over what the rules will be regarding foreign investment in a post-Brexit world, many of these investors will be looking to reduce their exposure to the U.K, Sanjay argues, with the U.S. market set to benefit. He writes:

The U.S. government made international investment in America easier by easing the tax burden on many of these deals. For example, a non-U.S. investor can now own up to 10% of a REIT before incurring federal taxes–up from 5%. This December 2015 action also exempts certain foreign pension funds from taxes from their U.S. property holdings.

Especially if you live in a major U.S. economic center, this means that it's reasonable to expect higher real estate prices, and that goes for commercial real estate as well as residential. Furthermore, if you haven't yet used the recent trend of lower interest rates as an opportunity to refinance your mortgage to a lower payment, now would be a great time to do so as the Brexit decision will likely put a damper on interest rates for the time being.

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