Americans who purchased new homes or refinanced their mortgages over the past few months may have done so at just the right moment. The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to 3.02%, mortgage-finance giant Freddie Mac said Thursday. It is the first time the rate on America’s most popular home loan has risen above 3% since July and the fifth consecutive week it has increased or held steady.
Mortgage rates fell throughout most of 2020 after the Covid-19 pandemic ravaged the economy. That helped power the biggest boom in mortgage lending since before the financial crisis, fueled by refinancings. When rates hit 2.98% in July, it was their first time under the 3% mark in about 50 years of record-keeping.
The recent upward moves paint a clear contrast: More vaccinations in the U.S. and recent progress on the latest coronavirus relief bill have brightened investors’ outlook on the economy, a key variable in determining borrowing rates.
Mortgage rates tend to move in the same direction as the yield on the 10-year Treasury, which has been rising. Treasury yields rise when investors feel confident enough in the economy to forgo safe-haven assets such as bonds for riskier ones including stocks. Last week, the yield hit its highest level in a year.
Freddie Mac chief economist Sam Khater said he expects a strong sales season, partly because he thinks “the uptrend in rates from here will be more muted than the past few weeks.” The Federal Reserve has said it would maintain ultralow interest rates until the economy improves.
The rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage increased to 3.02% this week, up from 2.97% the previous week, according to Freddie Mac, a government-sponsored agency that backs millions of mortgages. That was the first time the rate exceeded 3% since the third week in July and the highest level since the first full week in July, when the rate was 3.03%.
The average rate on 30-year fixed mortgages surged over 3% this week, hitting that benchmark for the first time in seven months.
The rise in rates isn’t a surprise. With expectations that the economy will start to recover and the potential for increasing inflation, many experts see mortgage rates rising in 2021.
However, it’s important to note that even with the recent rate growth, both mortgage and refinance rates remain historically low. As recently as May 2019, rates were over 4%, so many homeowners still have the opportunity to save with a mortgage refinance or purchase a new home at a low rate.
Here’s what rising rates might mean for you.
Rates have surged 0.37% from an all-time low of 2.65% in early January and now sit at 3.02%, according to Freddie Mac. For someone taking out a $250,000 30-year mortgage, this increase in rates would add about $49 to your monthly payment and cost roughly $17,800 more in interest over the life of the loan.
Mortgage interest rates aren’t expected to continue to rise at this rate. “The rise in mortgage rates over the next couple of months is likely to be more muted in comparison to the last few weeks,” Freddie Mac chief economist Sam Khater said in a statement released yesterday. So don’t expect to see the real estate market turn into a buyers market anytime soon.
This rapid increase in rates has been driven, in part, by rising long-term Treasury bond yields, which topped 1.5%. “Interest rates have been volatile recently, with the benchmark 10-year Treasury increasing about 50 basis points from where it was at the start of the year,” Freddie Mac deputy chief economist Len Kiefer wrote in an email. And that has put pressure on mortgage rates, which historically have moved in tandem with 10-year Treasury bond yields.