Home Loan Interest Rates Inch Up

Mortgage rates rose slightly for the second consecutive week, and economists warn that more rises are likely to come. Mortgage rates are now up three-quarters of a percentage point from last year.

“Borrowing costs may be slowly on the rise again in coming weeks, as investors remain optimistic about the underlying strength of the economy,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. Home prices have been rising too—although at a slower pace recently—but are still “outrunning rising inflation and incomes,” Khater notes. “The weakening in affordability is hindering many interested buyers this fall, even as the robust economy brings them into the market.”

Freddie Mac reports the following averages for the week ending Sept. 6:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.54 percent, with an average 0.5 point for the week, increasing from last week’s 4.52 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.78 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.99 percent, with an average 0.4 point, increasing from last week’s 3.97 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.08 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

Home Loan Approval with a Lower Credit Score

New mortgages are being approved with lower credit scores, and FHA loans appear to be leading the shift, according to studies by credit developer FICO and other entities. “As we get further away from the Great Recession, underwriting criteria seems to have eased, and a broader section of consumers are obtaining mortgages as a result,” according to FICO’s report.

From January to March of this year, borrowers who were approved for FHA loans—which offer low down payment options for first-time home buyers—had an average credit score of 672, according to FHA data. During that same period in 2011, the average credit score for an FHA borrower was 701. FHA borrowers also have had higher debt-to-income ratios in recent years. Debt-to-income ratios measure monthly household income against other debt, such as credit cards, auto loans, and personal loans.

Mortgage Interest Rates ‘Mostly Holding Steady’

Mortgage rates haven’t been this stable since the fall of 2016. Rates did inch up this week, but only slightly and are still offering prospective buyers a window of opportunity, says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

The recent slowdown in price appreciation in several markets, mixed with these steady mortgage rates, is “good news” for many prospective buyers who may have been priced out earlier this year. “Given the strength of the economy, it is possible for home sales to pick up even more before year’s end,” Khater says. “The key factor will be if affordably priced inventory increases enough to continue this recent trend of cooling price appreciation.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Aug. 30:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.52 percent, with an average 0.5 point, rising from last week’s 4.51 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.82 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.97 percent, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 3.98 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.12 percent.
Source: “Mortgage Rates Tick Up,” Freddie Mac (Aug. 30, 2018)

Mortgage Rates Ease for Second Week

Borrowers had slightly more relief with mortgage rates again this week. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate dipped again, averaging 4.53 percent, Freddie Mac reports.

“The stability in borrowing costs comes despite the highest core inflation rates since 2008 and turbulence in the currency markets,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Unfortunately, this pause in rates is not leading to increasing home sales.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Aug. 16:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.53 percent, with an average 0.5 point, falling from last week’s 4.59 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.89 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.01 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week’s 4.05 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.16 percent.
Source: “Mortgage Rates Step Back,” Freddie Mac (Aug. 16, 2018)

5M Renters Have Fallen Prey to Online Scams

More than 43 percent of renters say they’ve found online rental listings that seemed fraudulent, and more than 5 million say they’ve actually been scammed—sometimes to the tune of thousands of dollars—according to a new report released by rental website ApartmentList.com.

The survey revealed that the most common scam is a “bait-and-switch” one, where a different property is advertised than the one that is actually available. The scammer is often able to collect a deposit or get a lease signed for the fake property. Another common scam is the “hijacked ad,” where a scammer takes a home that is legitimately for sale and poses as a fake landlord to collect funds. Apartment List also warns of a growing scam in which a listing property that is already leased is posted online. The scammer then attempts to collect application fees or security deposits from an unsuspecting consumer.

Source: “Ready to Rent a Home? Beware of These New Scams,” CNBC (Aug. 9, 2018)

Another ‘Client’ to Please: The Family Pet

Home buyers are increasingly being swayed by their pets when choosing which property to purchase. Three-quarters of home buyers say they would even pass up an otherwise perfect home—their dream home—if it did not meet their pets’ needs, according to a new realtor.com® survey of more than 1,000 consumers who’ve closed on a home in 2018.

Pet owners comprised 80 percent of recent home buyers—with dogs and cats being the most common types of pet—according to the survey. Younger buyers and those with children appeared to be the most influenced by their pets’ needs when shopping for a home, according to the survey.

Pet owners gave their two most desired features in a home: a large backyard and outdoor space. Other top features pet owners say they valued in a home included a garage, large square footage, a dog run and sturdy flooring.

Source: “One of the Family: Three-Quarters of Home Buyers Would Pass Up Dream Home for Pets’ Needs,” Move Inc. (Aug. 8, 2018)

Hike in Mortgage Rates Reduces Affordability

Borrowers got stuck with higher mortgage rates again this week. Mortgage rates are now at their fourth highest level of the year, Freddie Mac reports.

“The higher rate environment, coupled with the ongoing lack of affordable inventory, has led to a drag on existing-home sales in the last few months,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

The Federal Reserve this week voted to hold off on raising its short-term rate, “but the embers of a strong economy potentially stoking higher inflation, borrowing costs will likely modestly rise in the coming months,” Khater adds.

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Aug. 2:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.60 percent, with an average 0.4 point, rising from last week’s 4.54 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.93 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.08 percent, with an average 0.4 point, increasing from last week’s 4.02 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.18 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

Federal Reserve Leaves Interest Rates Alone

The Federal Reserve decided Wednesday to hold off on raising its short-term interest rates. But it hinted that it likely will deliver its third interest rate increase of the year at its next meeting in late September. The Fed’s key rate does not have a direct impact on mortgage rates.

“Economic activity has been rising at a strong rate,” the Fed’s statement read. Economic output rose at a 4.1 percent annual rate in the second quarter, which is the highest three-month increase since 2014.

The economy, the Fed, and inflation all have an influence on long-term fixed-rate mortgages. Rates are rising, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaging about 4.71 percent, up from 4.09 percent in 2015, CNBC reports.

Source: “The Fed Didn’t Raise Rates. How to Prepare for the Next Hike,” CNBC (Aug. 1, 2018) and “Federal Reserve Holds Rates Steady, Says Economy Is Strong,” The Wall Street Journal (Aug. 1, 2018) [Log-in required.]

‘Extra Time to Find the Right Home’ for Buyers

Mixed economic data this week prompted mortgage rates to remain in mostly a holding pattern, says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Manufacturing output and consumer spending showed improvements, but construction activity was a disappointment,” Khater says. “This meant there was no driving force to move mortgage rates in any meaningful way, which has been the theme in the last two months. That’s good news for price-sensitive home shoppers, given that this stability in borrowing costs allows them a little extra time to find the right home.”

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending July 19:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.52 percent this week, with an average 0.5 point, dropping slightly from last week’s 4.53 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.96 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4 percent this week, with an average 0.4 point, falling from last week’s 4.02 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.23 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac

The Cost of Selling Without a Real Estate Agent

You’ve heard of buyer’s remorse; but without your market expertise and sales skills to back them up, sellers who choose to sell their home on their own just may experience “seller’s regret” when they see how much less they get for their properties. FSBOs earn an average of $60,000 to $90,000 less on the sale of their home than sellers who work with a real estate agent, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Here’s the breakdown:

  • All agent-assisted homes: $250,000 (median selling price)
  • All FSBO homes: $190,000
  • FSBO homes when buyer knew seller: $160,300

Homeowners seem to be hearing the message: Only 8 percent of sellers last year—an all-time low—chose to sell their home themselves, according to NAR’s 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. That figure has been falling since 2004, when 14 percent of homeowners sold their own homes.

Source: “Selling Your Home Solo to Save Money? You’ll Actually Make Less Than You Think,” National Association of REALTORS® Economists’ Outlook blog (July 9, 2018)