Rates rise, but only slightly

Aerial photo of beautiful neighborhood during the autumn.

Mortgage rates have ticked up slightly to an average of 2.90% for a 30-year fixed-rate loan, from last week’s 2.87%, mortgage company Freddie Mac said on Thursday.

This comes after a run of record lows, bottoming out at just 2.86% two weeks ago. One year ago, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages were averaging 3.64%.

Historically low mortgage rates are turbocharging the housing market, says George Ratiu, senior economist at Realtor.com.

“Sales of existing homes continue rising, while inventory reaches new lows,” he says. “The combination of high demand and low supply is driving prices 11.1% higher than a year ago.”

But that mix could eventually hurt home sales, says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

“While there is room for rates to decrease even more, higher home prices and low inventory could potentially stifle the high demand that we’ve been seeing,” he said.

The average rate for a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage also rose this week — hitting 2.40%, from 2.35% last week. Those mortgages are often used for refinance loans, and the rates are down sharply from last year, when the average was 3.16%.

Rates on 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMS, are averaging 2.90%, a drop from last week’s average of 2.96%.

There's still time to take advantage of low rates

Couple at desk with laptop discussing money

Though the new 0.5% fee on most U.S. refinance loans doesn’t technically go into effect until Dec. 1, experts already have observed lenders passing the cost on to consumers by raising mortgage rates across the board.

We saw a preview of this in mid-August. Rates soared when the fee was first announced and was given a Sept. 1 start date, but a federal regulatory agency delayed it by three months — and rates dropped back down for a while.

Rates overall have basically been flat for the last two weeks, largely thanks to the Federal Reserve, says Matthew Speakman, an economist with Zillow.

“With the Fed likely to keep interest rates at zero and a steady pace of mortgage bond purchases, upward pressure on mortgage rates will be limited in the near future,” he says.

That means there’s still time to lock in the best rates for homeowners who’ve been waiting to refinance their mortgages and save. An estimated 19.3 million mortgage holders could lower their interest rates to reduce their monthly payments by an average $299 a month, the mortgage data firm Black Knight recently reported.

Shopping around is essential for getting the best rates; borrowers who get five rate quotes save an average of $3,000 more than those who get just one quote, a Freddie Mac study found.

Comparison shopping also works very well when you're trying to save on your home insurance.

Take a look at today's top mortgage rates where you are:

About the Author

Ethan Rotberg

Ethan Rotberg


Ethan Rotberg is a staff reporter at MoneyWise. His background includes nearly 15 years as a writer, editor, designer and communications professional. He loves storytelling, from feature writing to narrative podcasts. His work has appeared in the Toronto Star, CPA Canada and Metro, among others.

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