Homeowners in Portugal are getting paid to have mortgages as negative rates spread

Aerial view of Funchal with traditional cable car above the city, in Madeira island, Portugal
A cable car in Portugal perhaps floats above some of those mortgage holders with negative rates.

  • In Portugal, mortgage holders are seeing negative rates – meaning they’re getting paid by their banks.
  • What was supposed to be a rare phenomenon has likely increased during the pandemic.
  • Meanwhile, home-buying in the US has become expensive and difficult throughout the pandemic.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

How would you like to be paid to have a mortgage? Maybe you should buy a house in Portugal.

Some mortgage holders actually have negative mortgage rates – meaning their banks pay them interest. The Wall Street Journal’s Patricia Kowsmann reported on the phenomenon, which was rare pre-pandemic. Rates were originally allowed that low a few years back to help bolster the economy.

But in Portugal, mortgages are increasingly seeing negative rates, a consequence of low interest rates in general across the developed world. One consumer-rights group, Deco, told the WSJ that it estimated more than 30,000 mortgages had negative rates back in 2019, but that has more than doubled now. BPI, the bank for one of the negative mortgage holders profiled, said it has paid out over 1 million pounds in interest.

The negative rates aren’t just in Portugal; some mortgage holders in Denmark are also increasingly seeing interest. However, banks there have begun administering fees for deposits; in many instances, according to the WSJ, the fees can offset the interest that the mortgage holders are receiving.

Meanwhile, in the US, prospective buyers should be prepared to pay more than the asking price, as supply stays low and goes quickly. As Insider’s Taylor Borden wrote: “It’s actually a horrible time to buy a house.”

Yes, Borden writes, American mortgage rates are low, but prices are high, effectively pushing the American dream of homeownership out of reach. Also, as the American economy has started reopening this spring, mortgage rates have gone back above 3% again, and seem likely to keep rising.

But even for the lucky mortgage holders of Portugal, it’s not all smooth sailing. One person that the WSJ spoke to, Paula Cristina Santos, has had to halt her own plans for buying a house. One reason why: The charge from her bank to get a new mortgage is just too high – and can’t compare to her current negative rate.

Read the original article on Business Insider