Record low interest rates aren't doing much to help housing market
Mortgage rates have hit all-time lows — again. Am I sounding like a broken record yet?
According to Freddie Mac, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.84% for the week ending Thursday, just inching out last week's 3.88% and previously all-time-low rate of $3.87 in February to come in at the lowest rate ever recorded.
Yeah, that would be more impressive if it didn’t happen every week. Can you just hear the frustration in reporter Justin Hilley’s lead? “Fixed mortgage rates hit new all-time lows this week as anemic economic growth and inflation took rates to unheard depths.”
Sounds like an opening line for Jaws, if Jaws were about mortgage rates.
The rates (you know, because they’re low) are supposed to be enticing new buyers into buying all of these empty homes, right? Well, it turns out that of all the loans Freddie purchased in the first quarter, 87% were for refinancing.
So, the only people really benefiting from these record-breaking low rates are those who already own homes — not those who would want to buy them. Meaning all of those empty houses are still sitting there, and are still quite empty. Unless, of course, they’ve been occupied by a squatter.
In an email Jim Vogel of FTN Financial [stock FTN][/stock] sent to investors Thursday morning, he commented on the high number of refinances and low number of purchase loans:
“Net results for the U.S. economy and the performance of the old credit book would be improved if that mix declined closer to 65% with the addition of more purchase loans,” he said.
But if mortgage rates are so low, why aren’t people jumping up and down and screaming “Buy, buy, buy!”?
A myriad of reasons are to blame, including a wary American public who hasn’t yet felt the bottom of the housing crisis, tight credit and a general cash-strapped feeling stemming from slow job growth and underemployment.
It’s clear that these low interest rates, while beneficial for the few credit-worthy borrowers who still want to buy a home and the thousands of people looking to refinance, aren’t exactly going to light a fire in the housing market.