Mortgage rates dipped for the second week straight, breathing some life into the housing market, according to Freddie Mac.
The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 7.5% for the week ending Nov. 9, according to Freddie Mac’s latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey. That’s a decrease from the previous week when it averaged 7.76%. A year ago, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 7.08%.
The average rate for a 15-year mortgage was 6.81%, down from 7.03% last week and up from 6.38% last year.
Mortgage rates had been aggressively climbing towards the 8% threshold in sync with 10-year treasury yields, which have also slowed. The dip in rates has helped boost mortgage activity, as evidenced by the 2.5% increase in total mortgage application volumes last week, compared with the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) seasonally adjusted index. Applications to refinance a home loan increased 2% for the week and were 7% lower than one year ago.
Despite the more optimistic tone, housing activity continues to be hamstrung by affordability issues. The purchase index is still more than 20% behind last year’s pace, as many homebuyers remain on the sidelines until more for-sale inventory becomes available, according to MBA Vice President and Deputy Chief Economist Joel Kan.
“As Treasury yields decline, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped a quarter of a percent, the largest one-week decrease since last November,” Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist Sam Khater said. “Incoming data show that household debt continues to rise, primarily due to mortgage, credit card and student loan balances. Many consumers are feeling strained by the high cost of living, so unless mortgage rates decrease significantly, the housing market will remain stagnant.”
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Rates stay higher for longer
The U.S. economy is expected to slow down in the fourth quarter and into next year; those expectations have downward pressure on Treasury yields — and mortgage rates.
While the expectation that the Fed will raise interest rates again this year is low, the central bank has not completely ruled out this possibility. At its November meeting, it maintained the short-term policy rate within a range of 5.25% to 5.5% but left the option for an additional future rate hike on the table as it looks to return inflation to a 2% target rate.
“As the possibility of a rate hike remains on the table, investors are likely to exercise caution in their positioning, and the expectations for rates to stay steady to slightly higher remains,” Realtor.com Economist Jiayi Xu said.
Even in the absence of another rate hike, economists believe that the Fed will keep rates higher for longer, which is likely to impact how quickly mortgage rates dip over the coming year.
“Constraints on monetary policy suggest a Fed policy reversal isn’t likely in the near term,’ Zillow economist Orphe Divounguy said in a statement. “Recent data revisions suggest excess savings for consumers are higher than previously estimated – that is, savings above and beyond normal pre-pandemic levels.
“This should support consumers and spending going into the holiday season. Loosening financial and credit conditions are also encouraging economic activity.”
If you want to take advantage of interest rates before they potentially go up, you could consider shopping for the right mortgage or refinancing your existing one. Visit Credible to speak with a mortgage expert and get your questions answered.
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Home prices keep rising
The median listing price in October 2023 stood at the same level as last year, but elevated mortgage rates have driven up the cost of financing a typical home for sale. Homebuyers paid over $166 a month, representing a 7.4% rise compared to the previous year, according to Realtor.com’s October 2023 estimates.
Higher mortgage rates have also raised the required annual household income for purchasing a median-priced home by $6,600, reaching a total of $120,000.
One bright spot is that home prices have steadily gained in 2023 despite the continued rise of borrowing costs. U.S. single-family home prices increased by 4.5% year-over-year in September, the third month of acceleration and the highest growth since early 2023, according to CoreLogic’s latest U.S. home price insights. Annual home price growth is forecasted to continue to rise modestly through January 2024 before relaxing to 2.6% in September 2024.
“The forecasted 2.6% growth over the next year, while moderate, suggests that home prices are not in a free fall but adjusting to a new equilibrium,” A&D Mortgage CEO Max Slyusarchuk said in a statement. “This is a key point for mortgage brokers to communicate to prospective homebuyers who might be on the fence, contemplating the timing of their purchase.”
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