US mortgage rates have continued their upward trend for the third consecutive week, hitting their highest level since November. The surge in rates is causing concerns among potential homebuyers and refinancers as demand begins to wane. With the market currently facing a supply-demand imbalance, the implications of these rising rates on the housing sector and the broader economy are being closely monitored.
According to Freddie Mac, the average rate for a 30-year fixed loan has risen to 6.79%, up from 6.57% the previous week. This increase has been primarily attributed to a buoyant economy that has prompted the market to factor in the likelihood of another Federal Reserve rate hike. Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, warns that if rates inch even closer to 7%, it could potentially weaken demand for mortgages.
The impact of rising rates on the housing market is becoming evident. Home sales have seen a significant decline compared to the previous year, but buyers who are committed to their search for a home are still providing some support to demand. On the other hand, current homeowners are reluctant to list their properties and give up their low-rate mortgages. This dynamic has created a stark supply-demand imbalance in many markets, leading to an increase in home prices.
The recent surge in home prices has captured the attention of economic policymakers. Federal Reserve Governor Michelle Bowman has highlighted that the “leveling out” of housing prices holds implications for the central bank’s battle against inflation. As the housing sector plays a significant role in the broader economy, policymakers are closely monitoring the situation to assess the potential risks.
Last week, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported a notable surge in mortgage rates. The contract rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage reached 6.91%, the highest level since early November. This sharp increase has dampened demand for both home purchases and refinancings. The index for home purchases fell to its lowest level since early March, while refinancing activity hit its weakest point since late February.
The Market Composite Index, which measures mortgage loan application volume, also reflected the impact of rising rates. The index decreased by 3.7% on a seasonally adjusted basis compared to the previous week. The Refinance Index dropped by 7%, a substantial 45% lower than the same week last year. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index saw a decline of 3% from the previous week, with an unadjusted drop of 4% compared to the same period last year.
The lackluster demand for mortgage applications can be attributed to the high rates, which have deterred potential buyers and refinancers. While refinance demand is primarily driven by the level of rates, the limited availability of homes on the market continues to constrain purchase volume.
The Mortgage Bankers Association’s Chief Economist, Mike Fratantoni, expressed concerns about inflation and the implications of rising rates. He noted that some lenders were quoting rates above 7% for conforming, balance 30-year loans, and the weekly average of 6.9% marked the highest level since November. Fratantoni emphasized that the decrease in application volumes for both purchase and refinance loans can be attributed to these elevated rates.