After the biggest one-week spike in two years, fixed mortgage rates retreated this week.
According to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average fell to 4.85 percent with an average 0.5 point. (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1 percent of the loan amount.) It was 4.90 percent a week ago and 3.88 percent a year ago.
The 15-year fixed-rate average slipped to 4.26 percent with an average 0.4 point. It was 4.29 percent a week ago and 3.19 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average ticked up to 4.10 percent with an average 0.3 point. It was 4.07 percent a week ago and 3.17 percent a year ago.
“Mortgage rates held mostly steady this week despite turbulence in the stock market, which saw its third largest weekly decline since the financial crisis,” said Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow. “For the most part, bond markets saw through this temporary volatility, which has yet to spill over to long-term lending rates. Rates remain at their highest levels since 2011 and are showing few signs of retreating. A steady stream of weak housing data, with more expected over the coming days, have thus far failed to put a dent in rates’ upward momentum.”
The Federal Reserve released the minutes from its September meeting this week. Although the central bank doesn’t set mortgage rates, its decisions influence them. In the minutes, the Fed reiterated its stance that the best way to keep the economy strong is to continue to gradually raise interest rates. The Fed, which raised rates for the third time this year in September, signaled that it would probably hike rates again in December and possibly three more times next year.
Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found that nearly two-thirds of the experts it surveyed say rates will remain relatively stable in the coming week. Shashank Shekhar, chief executive of Arcus Lending, is one who doesn’t expect rates to move much.
“After rising to a seven-year high two weeks back, mortgage rates have remained mostly stable,” Shekhar said. “The meeting minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) didn’t contain any surprises. There is no other major economic event or announcements that can have a significant impact on the rates. Also, after the sudden steep hike in late September, early October, the markets should pause for a week or so. Put all that together and we might just have a quiet week on the mortgage rates front.”
Nonetheless, rising rates have made owning a home more expensive. The average monthly mortgage payment nationally has risen nearly 16 percent or $223 per month since last year, according to calculations by Realtor.com. In the Washington region, monthly mortgage payments have gone up a little more than 10 percent, rising to $2,291 from $2,077.
“Buyers can expect to reach into their pockets even further to land a home this fall,” said Javier Vivas, director of economic research for Realtor.com. “However, the nature of this affordability challenge is changing. Rates are taking on a bigger role and price gains are continuing to decelerate. To be successful, buyers need to keep a close eye on both sides of the equation and get prepared for rates to approach decade highs."
Meanwhile, higher rates have caused mortgage applications to plummet, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. The market composite index — a measure of total loan application volume — declined 7.1 percent from a week earlier. The refinance index fell 9 percent from the previous week, while the purchase index dropped 6 percent.
The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 38.1 percent of all applications.
“The jump in rates over the past month has further diminished refinance volume, but homebuyer demand has held up strongly this fall,” said Bob Broeksmit, MBA president and chief executive. “Even with rates almost a percentage point higher than a year ago, purchase applications last week still rose 2.5 percent [year-over-year].”
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