The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, the most popular mortgage product, rose above 3% for the first time in seven months this week.
According to the latest data released Thursday by Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed-rate average climbed to 3.02% with an average 0.6 point. (Points are fees paid to a lender equal to 1% of the loan amount and are in addition to the interest rate.) It was 2.97% a week ago and 3.29% a year ago.
The 30-year fixed average, which hasn't been above 3% since late July, has jumped more than 35 basis points since January. (A basis point is 0.01 percentage point.)
Freddie Mac, the federally chartered mortgage investor, aggregates rates from around 80 lenders across the country to come up with weekly national average mortgage rates. It uses rates for high-quality borrowers with strong credit scores and large down payments. Because of the criteria, these rates are not available to every borrower.
Because the survey is based on home purchase mortgages, rates for refinances may be higher. The price adjustment for refinance transactions that went into effect in December is adding to the cost. The adjustment, which applies to all Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac refinances, is 0.5% of the loan amount. That works out to $1,500 on a $300,000 loan.
The 15-year fixed-rate average was unchanged at 2.34% with an average 0.7 point. It was 2.79% a year ago. The five-year adjustable rate average dropped to 2.73% with an average 0.3 point. It was 2.99% a week ago and 3.18% a year ago.
"The Freddie Mac fixed rate for a 30-year loan rose this week," said George Ratiu, senior economist at Realtor.com. "With the U.S. president indicating that there should be enough covid vaccines available for every American by May, and the U.S. House of Representatives passing additional stimulus in the latest bill, investors retreated from the bond market, driving interest rates higher."
After retreating from its highest level this year, the yield on the 10-year Treasury came back to 1.47% Wednesday. Despite their rapid rise in February, long-term bond yields remain low by historical norms. The 10-year yield is less than half of what it was in 2018, when it was above 3%. The pandemic sent it tumbling to a low of 0.55% in August. But lately as concerns about inflation heating up mount, the 10-year Treasury yield has rebounded.
"With the US economic outlook becoming more promising, treasury yields are on the rise, but we don't expect mortgage rates to be heavily impacted since margins are only beginning to normalize to pre-covid levels," Glenn Brunker, president of Ally Home, said in an email. "There has been a large spread between treasury yields and mortgage rates for the majority of 2020 and into 2021, providing a cushion for mortgage rates even with treasury yields rising. We foresee mortgage rates likely stabilizing, followed by slow upward momentum fueled by an optimistic economic climate and in turn, increased treasury yields."
Bankrate.com, which puts out a weekly mortgage rate trend index, found the experts it surveyed mixed on where rates were headed in the coming week. Forty-two percent said rates will go up, 33% say they will stay the same and 25% said they will go down.
Ken Johnson, a real estate economist at Florida Atlantic University, expects them to rise.
"With the next stimulus package winding its way to a conclusion, financial markets are returning to more traditional operations," he said. "Rising 10-year Treasury yields will result in rising long-term mortgage rates in the coming weeks."