Mortgage Rates Tick Down as More Home Buyers Choose to Wait It Out
Interest rates for home loans ticked down as simmering trade tensions kept investors flocking to the safety of bonds, even as evidence mounts that more would-be home buyers may be giving up.
The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.60% in the Aug. 9 week, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly survey, down one basis point. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.05%, down from 4.08%. The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 3.90%, down three basis points.
Bond yields are holding relatively steady, with concerns about trade wars keeping investors interested in safe-haven assets, even as a surge in supply offsets some of that demand. Mortgage rates track the 10-year Treasury, the U.S. benchmark.
But in the housing market, conditions are a bit choppier. Sales of previously owned homes slumped for the third month in a row in June, and sales of new homes also fell — though for the year to date are about 7% higher than for the same period in 2017. Demand is hot but supply is not — and that’s pushing prices higher and options lower.
Bruce Ocko, the director of mortgage and consumer lending for Bangor Savings Bank, which has branches throughout northern New England, said purchase mortgages have accounted for roughly 80% of his home-loan business over the past several years, so the plunge in refis isn’t impacting it as much as other lenders.
Still, Ocko thinks activity in the housing market has stalled largely because of what he calls “buyer fatigue.” Consumers are well aware that rates are on the move, and even though year-to-date averages aren’t much higher than last year, a few basis points can make a difference for a first-time buyer or others who are already stretching in a competitive market.
“Some folks are deciding to say, ‘I’m going to renew my lease another year, wait it out,’ ” Ocko told MarketWatch.
Take-up of home-equity products has also been firm, Ocko said, a sign that existing homeowners would prefer to tap into the value of their home to age in place, or just upgrade, rather than relinquish a mortgage with an ultra-low rate.
In a 2017 analysis, data provider Black Knight showed that homeowners with lower mortgage rates are far less likely to sell, a phenomenon often called “rate lock.”