Mortgage rates fell again this week for the fourth week in a row.
The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.33% in the week ending December 8., According to Freddie Mac, down 6.49% from the previous week. A year ago, the 30-year fixed rate was 3.10%.
Mortgage rates rose through much of 2022, spurred by the Federal Reserve’s unprecedented campaign to raise interest rates to tame rising inflation. But mortgage rates have fallen over the past few weeks following reports that inflation has finally peaked.
Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sam Khater said the rate cut came amid concerns about weak economic growth.
“Mortgage rates have fallen by three-quarters over the past four weeks, the biggest drop since 2008,” Khater said. “While the decline in interest rates has been substantial, homebuyer sentiment remains low and purchase demand is not responding positively to these low prices.”
The average mortgage rate is based on mortgage applications Freddie Mac receives from thousands of lenders nationwide. Only borrowers with 20% down and excellent credit are included in the survey. But many buyers with less down payment or less-than-perfect credit will pay more than the average rate.
Rates fell again this week as investors watched for more signs of slowing inflation, said Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com.
“Next week’s Consumer Price Index data will confirm whether these trends are spreading across the various goods and services consumers buy,” he said.
Markets are also awaiting news from the Fed, which is expected to announce another interest rate hike at its meeting next week. Analysts expect the rate hike could be a smaller half-point jump than the central bank’s four consecutive quarters of 1-point hikes this year.
Mortgage rates tend to track the yield on the 10-year US Treasury bond. When that rate goes up, so does the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. When Treasury rates fall, so do mortgage rates.
The Fed has signaled that it intends to continue raising rates — albeit in smaller increments — until inflation shows clear signs of easing.
“This means that mortgage rates could continue on the volatile path seen so far in 2022,” Hale said.
As a result of rising home financing costs and price volatility, many homebuyers have left the market.
Mortgage applications slowed last week, despite another decline in the 30-year fixed mortgage rate, said Bob Broeksmith, president and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association. Last week, the average loan size for a purchase application was at its lowest level in nearly two years, another sign that home prices are cooling.
“Despite the continued decline in mortgage rates that began in October, potential homebuyers continue to put off home buying decisions, even if home prices have leveled off or fallen,” Broeksmit said.
Interest rates have seen a lot of movement this year, mostly rising, and weekly changes in mortgage rates have been larger than historical averages, highlighting overall volatility.
“This has made it extremely difficult to set a home buying budget for homebuyers who watch their affordability rise and fall as prices fluctuate,” Hale said.
According to Hale, the drop from the 7 percent we saw last month has lowered the average monthly cost of buying a home by about $170. According to Realtor.com, today’s median-priced home buyer with a 10% down payment is looking at paying $2,340 a month for principal and interest, an increase of about $900 a month over last year.
“As housing costs continue to be a major challenge for both buyers and renters, affordable mid-sized housing markets offer a potential haven that workers with flexible arrangements may continue to seek,” Hale said. Homebuyers were looking for affordable prices in cities like Hartford, Connecticut; El Paso, Texas; or Louisville, Kentucky, according to Realtor.com.
“We expect the top housing markets to remain relatively active in 2023, although the number of home sales across the country is expected to decline,” he said.