The average U.S. rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage this week is 3.13%, matching last week’s rate that was the lowest on record, according to Freddie Mac.
Mortgage rates remained at the record low as the three most populous U.S. states – California, Texas and Florida – hit new highs for COVID-19 infections, driving money managers to seek fixed-income investments like mortgage bonds in a “flight to safety,” said Keith Gumbinger, vice president of mortgage-data firm HSH.com.
“With the rising incidents of COVID-19 in some states, there’s definitely a little bit of a shift to safety, a shift into bonds as investors wait to see how the story unfolds,” Gumbinger said.
Low mortgage rates have been a bright spot in the U.S. economy since the Federal Reserve stepped into the bond market in March and began buying fixed assets to boost competition and shrink yields. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has pledged to keep purchasing Treasuries and mortgage bonds for as long as support is needed.
The low interest rates have helped to support home prices. When rates are cheaper, the size of the mortgage borrowers can get becomes bigger because monthly payments shrink as financing costs go lower. That means people can bid higher for a home they like.
Prices for homes in April that were bought with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac increased 5.5% from a year earlier, which matched the annual gain seen in April 2019, long before the pandemic emerged.
Rates aren’t expected to jump any time soon. Fannie Mae, the larger rival to Freddie Mac, said in a forecast earlier this month that the average 30-year fixed rate for 2020 probably will be 3.2%, down from 2019’s 3.9%. This would be the lowest annual average ever recorded. For 2021, Fannie Mae said it expects the average rate to drop to 2.9%.