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What is buying a home like in Oklahoma after last year’s historic low interest rates?

An open house sign in Edmond, Oklahoma.
Kateleigh Mills
An open house sign in Edmond, Oklahoma.

These last few months have been a difficult time for homebuyers in the state, and many are faced with a tough decision: buy or wait?

Garrett Johnson and his wife Lucy closed on their first home together in May.

They had been living in the home Garrett bought five years ago while he was single. During the pandemic, he had taken advantage of the historic low interest rates and refinanced. But, it was time for more space.

“Right now this house is small enough that it's worked for us, but if we ever, you know, were to have a family — a growing family — then this house would quickly be outgrown,” Johnson said.

It was a dizzying experience for the Johnsons when they began looking about six months ago. These last few months have been a difficult time for homebuyers in the state - and many are faced with a tough decision: buy or wait.

“There were multiple times where we would put in offers, and we would be the third and fourth offer in, and it had been less than 24 hours,” Johnson said. “I think there's still a lot of sentiment that like, ‘you're going to pay all the closing.’ ‘You're going to pay a couple thousand above at least.’ And then, like sometimes people are saying ‘no repairs at all, like, we won't do anything. You're just going to get the house as is.’”

But things did finally work out for his new house and the Johnsons are excited despite deep reservations about sky-high interest rates of about 7%.

And they’re hardly alone. According to a 1,000 person survey of millennials by the group, Real Estate Witch, nearly half of millennials say high interest rates are a significant barrier to homeownership and 81% of those surveyed wish they’d bought a home before rates increased.

Cassi Justiz, an OKC realtor with the Justiz League Real Estate Team, says the average client now is someone who is experiencing a major life event - like getting married or having a child.

She says it is different from a year ago, when many people during the pandemic were taking advantage of lower interest rates and selling their existing homes to upsize to accommodate work and school from home.

“A lot of people that currently own their home are holding out,” Justiz said. "The people that we've talked to that are really motivated to move that are kind of less impacted by the actual mortgage rate are the people that are currently renting, maybe their lease is expiring, or they're having some life event where they want to buy a house rather than just upsizing or downsizing.

So far in 2023, home-buying nationwide has been slower than this time a year ago. The National Association of Realtors found that in April, existing home sales decreased 3.4%. Data from the Oklahoma City Metropolitan housing statistics show homes listed are staying on market longer than this time last year. The average prices of homes, and the number of listings, has also gone up.

April's data shows that there were almost 1,400 homes for sale in April 2023 - up from February 2022's low of 650 homes.

John Mayhue is a mortgage advisor for Cornerstone Home Lending in OKC. He has nearly 20 years of experience and has seen all kinds of markets. He says, although many people can be nervous about the interest rates, he reassures them that Oklahoma is still a relatively inexpensive place for a home.

I have a lot of out-of-state buyers that are coming here to Oklahoma to invest because where else can you buy property as inexpensive as here?” Mayhue said. “We're in a really blessed market.”

He also says that there has been more collaboration between the buyer and the seller in this market than a year ago.

“Maybe they have a little bit higher of an interest rate, but they aren't having to pay over asking price, and they're getting the seller to help pay some of their closing costs and getting assistance,” Mayhue said.

Overall, the Johnsons say they’re happy with how things worked out for them in the end. Garrett says, although interest rates were a bit daunting, ultimately they just decided to invest, with a plan to refinance when interest rates drop.

Johnson said both he and his wife had concerns about the national 7% interest rate on home loans, but they were reassured by their family that it was still doable. But having refinanced before, he’s hopeful rates will come down again.

“That's the only saving grace here,” Johnson said. “I think if there was no hope of that, if it was never going to come down, then I would be like, Oh, I'd have been really hard to pull the trigger to buy a house.” 

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Kateleigh Mills was the Special Projects reporter for KOSU from 2019 to 2024.
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