Freddie Mac, the federally chartered mortgage investor, aggregates rates from around 80 lenders across the country to come up with weekly national averages. The survey is based on home purchase mortgages. Rates for refinances may be different. It uses rates for high-quality borrowers with strong credit scores and large down payments. Because of the criteria, these rates are not available to every borrower.
The 15-year fixed-rate average rose to 2.15 percent with an average 0.6 point. It was 2.12 percent a week ago and 2.4 percent a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average fell to 2.43 percent with an average 0.3 point. It was 2.51 percent a week ago and 2.9 percent a year ago.
“The Freddie Mac fixed rate for a 30-year loan moved sideways this week as investors anxiously awaited clarity from the Federal Reserve amid a broad market sell-off early in the week,” said George Ratiu, a Realtor.com economist. “The 10-year Treasury has been bouncing up and down in a narrow band for the last few weeks, which kept rates steady.”
At its meeting this week, the Federal Reserve did not raise its benchmark rate, but it did signal that a rate increase could come sooner than previously indicated and that the Fed is ready to begin reducing or tapering its bond-buying program.
“If progress continues broadly as expected, the Committee judges that a moderation in the pace of asset purchases may soon be warranted,” the Fed said in a statement released after the meeting.
In a news conference following the meeting, Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell indicated a reduction in bond buying could begin and end within the next 12 months.
“While no decisions were made, participants generally viewed that so long as the recovery remains on track, a gradual tapering process that concludes around the middle of next year is likely to be appropriate,” he said.
Since early in the pandemic, the Fed has been buying $120 billion in Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities each month, which has held down mortgage rates. Although events could overtake the Fed’s plans, it appears that the central bank wants to give financial markets ample warning about its plans. The last time the central bank wound down its bond-buying program — following the Great Recession — the markets reacted strongly, with what is known as the “taper tantrum,” causing mortgage rates to soar. Some expect the Fed to announce it will begin curtailing its purchases at its next meeting in November.
“Markets are likely to price in expected tapering as indications of a timeline crystallize, which means that the days of sub-3 percent mortgage rates may be in the rear view mirror by the end of 2021,” Ratiu said.
Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found two-thirds of the experts it surveyed expect rates to remain about the same in the coming week.
“There is plenty of uncertainty looming regarding the debt ceiling, the ongoing infrastructure debate, as well as the impact of the delta variant,” said Elizabeth Rose, sales manager at AmCap Mortgage. “Then you add in the geo-news of Evergrande. This Chinese company is on the brink of collapse, and a default would wreak havoc. The concern is already showing up in both the Chinese stock market and the U.S. stock market. Keep in mind, mortgage bonds respond favorably to bad news, which in turn helps keep interest rates low.”
After a sluggish three weeks, mortgage applications bounced back last week. According to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association, the market composite index — a measure of total loan application volume — increased 4.9 percent from a week earlier. The refinance index grew 7 percent, while the purchase index rose 2 percent. The refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 66.2 percent of applications.
“Prospective home buyers were more active in the final weeks of summer, encouraged by the modest increases in housing supply,” said Bob Broeksmit, MBA president and CEO. “Purchase applications increased for the second straight week and remained at the highest level since April. The refinance market also saw a boost after Labor Day, with refinance activity up 7 percent, driven primarily by increases in FHA and VA loan applications.”