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Mortgage rates rise but stay sub-3%

But low mortgage rates are still up against rising home prices

Fickle mortgage rates rose once again last week, this time four basis points to an average of 2.99%, according to Thursday data from Freddie Mac‘s PMMS. However, despite fluctuating sub-3% mortgage rates, borrowers are still competing in a supply strained and overheated market.

“Home prices continue to accelerate while inventory remains low and new home construction cannot happen fast enough,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “There are many potential homebuyers who would like to take advantage of low mortgage rates, but competition is strong. For homeowners however, continued low rates make refinancing an option worth considering.”

The overall housing index hit its lowest point since February, said Joel Kan, the Mortgage Bankers Association’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting. Even though rates have been below 3.2% over the past month, they are still around 20 to 30 basis points higher than the record lows in late 2020, he said.

“Tight housing inventory, obstacles to a faster rate of new construction, and rapidly rising home prices continue to hold back purchase activity,” said Kan. 

While the COVID-19 crisis has kept mortgage rates lower and suppressed inventory, these two factors have also facilitated higher levels of price growth as COVID-19 happened amid a housing market sweet spot.

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“We have an increase in the number of buyers and a total collapse of inventory driving home-price growth,” said Logan Mohtashami, lead analyst at HousingWire. “In the last expansion, the only thing that kept home-price growth from taking off was the higher mortgage rates of 4% to 5%. We are currently enjoying the lowest mortgage rates ever, so we don’t have that to dampen the market.” 

According to Mohtashami, the new home sales marketplace is unhealthy, but when mortgage rates rise, this sector will get hit harder than the existing home market, like it always does. This won’t result in an epic housing crash, but it will impact future construction.

April’s existing home sales painted a familiar picture of a market still grappling with low supply as sales dropped for the third month in a row, down 2.7% from March to 5.85 million. Last week’s data on pending home sales proved that like new and existing sales, pending home sales also felt the strain of exhausted home inventory in April ― dropping 4.4% from the previous month to an index of 106.2, according to the National Association of Realtors.

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