How Your Mortgage Acts as a Hedge Against Inflation

Inflation and hyperinflation are concerns on the minds of the economists in the United States. With the amount of money that is being pumped into our financial system it is inevitable that prices will begin to rise at some point in the future. Many investors believe that real estate makes an excellent hedge against inflation. Does this theory hold up?

Photo by Images of Money via Flickr

What is an Inflation Hedge?

If prices of items you purchase are rising, inflation is occurring. To protect against these rising prices and keep your spending power the same you either need to earn more income or hold assets that do not lose value in the face of rising prices.

How Does Real Estate Protect Against Inflation?

Real estate is not a perfect hedge against inflation, unlike Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, which provide a return in line with inflation. However, compared to other investments real estate provides a good enough inflation hedge. Let’s look at how your home can protect you from inflation.

Fixed Payments Protect You

When you buy a home with a fixed-rate mortgage you are using leverage to purchase an asset you cannot (or don’t want to) pay cash for. The bank let’s you buy an asset while only having to pay 20% of the value of the asset upfront. The remaining 80% is provided by the bank as a home loan, which you have to make consistent payments over the life of the mortgage for this privilege.

The key to your mortgage providing inflation protection is the fixed mortgage payment. If you bought a home with a 4.5% 30-year fixed-rate mortgage today, your payment is the same for the 360 payments you make over the 30 years. You don’t pay less at the beginning and more toward the end of the mortgage. If your payment is $800 today, it will be $800 for your last payment — assuming a simple 3% inflation, your mortgage payment 30 years from now will be the equivalent of $340 in today’s dollars.

Here is an illustration of how the burden of $800 monthly payment reduces over 30 years:

The fixed nature of your payments means that your income increase over many years, you are effectively paying less for your house because your mortgage payments stay the same. Over time your home will actually become more affordable.

Home Values Rise Over Time

Historically real estate value appreciates at roughly the same rate as inflation. This means that your house is protected against the devaluing effect of inflation over the course of your homeownership. Of course, this is just the average. The value of your home will be affected by the condition of your house, economic condition, and your local market condition.

Overall, if you stay in your house for a long time, your house is likely to help you protect your wealth.

The Bottom Line

Obviously, this is not a ticket for you to jump into real estate without doing your due diligence. First and foremost, you have to make sure that owning a home is what you want to do and that you can afford your mortgage payments. Also, this only works well if you are planning to stay in your home for more than a decade; otherwise, renting might be a financially smarter decision.

If owning a house fits well into your financial picture, this is perhaps the best time to buy a home due to the recent housing market correction and historically low mortgage interest rate.

About the Author

By , on Oct 31, 2011
Kevin Mulligan
Kevin Mulligan is a debt reduction champion with a passion for teaching people how to budget and stay out of debt. He's building a personal finance freelance writing career and has written for, Discover Bank, and many others.

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Leave Your Comment (5 Comments)

  1. krantcents says:

    I have written a number of posts regarding income property. Here are a few:
    * How to Avoid Problem Tenants,
    * Five Steps to Buy Income Property, and
    * My Journey to Success

  2. krantcents says:

    I have done very well with real estate. I owned a lot of income property over the years. Not only is it hedge against inflation, but the rents I charged grew with inflation.

    • Pinyo says:

      @krantcents – I am thinking about getting into investment property around my neighborhood. I’ve been reading some books and articles. It’s a matter of jumping in and giving it a try. My biggest hesitation is dealing with bad tenants. Do you have any tips and advice to share with a newbie?

  3. Kody says:

    Someone once told me “there is no protection to inflation” which is a bunch of BS. Not only real estate and owning a home is inflationary protected, but as is gold and some other commodities. Government TIPS are very secure for inflation as well.

    This was a great read!

  4. Kevin,

    Excellent article. The time value of money is often overlooked, and holding mortgages on houses is a great way to take advantage of time working to lower your payments.

    My philosophy is, “if one house is good, two houses are better.” Now is a great time to pick up a rental house and double your rewards.

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