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Staff Working Papers
Working Paper 24-03: The Lock-In Effect of Rising Mortgage Rates

Published: 03/18/2024


​​​​​​Ross M. Batzer, Jonah R. Coste, William M. Doerner, and Michael J. Seiler


People can be “locked-in” or constrained in their ability to make appropriate financial changes, such as being unable to move homes, change jobs, sell stocks, rebalance portfolios, shift financial accounts, adjust insurance policies, transfer investment profits, or inherit wealth. These frictions—whether institutional, legislative, personal, or market-driven—are often overlooked. Residential real estate exemplifies this challenge with its physical immobility, high transaction costs, and concentrated wealth. In the United States, nearly all 50 million active mortgages have fixed rates, and most have interest rates far below prevailing market rates, creating a disincentive to sell. This paper finds that for every percentage point that market mortgage rates exceed the origination interest rate, the probability of sale is decreased by 18.1%. This mortgage rate lock-in led to a 57% reduction in home sales with fixed-rate mortgages in 2023Q4 and prevented 1.33 million sales between 2022Q2 and 2023Q4. The supply reduction increased home prices by 5.7%, outweighing the direct impact of elevated rates, which decreased prices by 3.3%. These findings underscore how mortgage rate lock-in restricts mobility, results in people not living in homes they would prefer, inflates prices, and worsens affordability. Certain borrower groups with lower wealth accumulation are less able to strategically time their sales, worsening inequality.​

​Mortgage lock-in data are available below in two formats at the bottom of this webpage. The first file offers a data supplement that could be used to recreate figures shown in the working paper. The second file offers additional developmental data aggregates produced from estimations in the working paper. Both files are subject to change with working paper revisions. Our FA​Qs address common questions about the datasets. Please cite this working paper when using either dataset.​

File Attachments:
Working Paper 24-03