Memphis housing market slows but still strong; refinancing requests swell

Published on: April 2, 2020

JACOB STEIMER | MEMPHIS BUSINESS JOURNAL

While Memphis' commercial real estate market has more-or-less frozen, homes are still being bought and sold.

In the last two weeks of March, the Shelby County Register of Deeds recorded 674 sales under $1 million. That's still 93% of what sold in the last two weeks of March 2019.

"It has slowed, but sales are still taking place," Judson Williford, Financial Federal EVP and co-manager of residential lending, said on March 27. "There are still multi-offer situations on a regular basis."

Williford said the biggest impact of the coronavirus so far has been on lending rates.

In early March, when the Federal Reserve was cutting its federal funds rate, 30-year home mortgage rates dropped to about to 3.3%, according to Freddie Mac data. But then, the week of March 16, investors got worried about having too many mortgages on their books, and rates jumped to about 3.7%. Last week, rates were back down to about 3.5%.

The week of March 16, Williford said, some rates got as high as 4.75%, as lenders tried to slow things down.

"It's been really crazy," Williford said. "We were ignoring everything we learned about how mortgages were priced [that week]."

Though they've jumped around a lot, rates are currently quite low, which has led to refinancing requests.

Williford said he and his staff are swamped in such requests — more than they've seen since 2011.

With low rates, Williford said he's not worried about the local mortgage business, as long as government officials allow them to keep their offices open.

"We need our whole staff [in the office] right now," he said.