- Mortgage rates moved higher last week to 4.08%, hitting levels not seen since before the pandemic.
- Inflation and anticipation of changes by the Federal Reserve have pushed rates up significantly in the past few months, although they remain near historic lows.
- Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has introduced new uncertainty to the world economy, driving stock markets down. That could lead to more volatility in mortgage rates.
- Rising mortgage rates, combined with already high and increasing home prices, are affecting how affordable homes are for potential buyers.
The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate inched up last week to 4.08% as a recent upward trend in rates continued, but new uncertainty stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could lead to more volatility moving forward.
Mortgage rates have been pushed up in recent months by a combination of economic factors, including inflation and anticipation that the Federal Reserve will begin raising its benchmark short-term interest rate in mid-March.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the broader tension across Europe might even cause rates to drop, says Rick Sharga, executive vice president of marketing at RealtyTrac, a foreclosure information firm.
Global financial impacts are likely to be a ripple effect of the war, which has already come with significant human costs. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said more than 100 Ukrainians were killed in the first day of fighting, with hundreds more wounded. Ukrainian citizens have sought to flee the country or take up arms in defense as the invasion upends daily life in the country of more than 40 million.
Drops in stock markets in reaction to the conflict could move investors toward bonds, including U.S. Treasury notes, Sharga says. “In volatile situations, investors tend to flee toward safety,” he says.
The increased demand for bonds, a safer investment, pushes down bond yields, and mortgage rates tend to track the 10-year U.S. treasury note, he says.
That might cause a dip in mortgage rates, or at least add one more factor to consider, Sharga says.
The rising rates in the past couple of months could squeeze homebuyers already struggling with high prices and a competitive seller’s market. The tight financial situation has forced buyers to consider buying smaller homes or spending more than expected, Sharga says. “The real question is at what point does the combination of rising interest rates and home prices lock potential buyers out of the market?”
Rising interest rates could cause home prices to stop rising as fast or even come down a bit, but until that happens sales could slow some, Sharga says.
ABOUT THE LATEST MORTGAGE RATES
Except where otherwise noted, mortgage rate data in this story is based on mortgage rate information provided by national lenders to Bankrate.com, which like NextAdvisor is owned by Red Ventures.
Expert Predictions for February Mortgage Rates
Experts expected that mortgage rates could approach 4% in February, and they have, eclipsing the 4% mark in some surveys like the Bankrate survey referenced in this article. After nearly two years of extremely low rates and relatively little volatility, the past two months have seen dramatic increases in rates.
High inflation and the prospect of Federal Reserve action to address it led to expectations of more up-and-down movement for rates, Ali Wolf, chief economist at Zonda, a California housing data and consultancy firm, told us. “We saw interest rates jump at the beginning of this year, but we think the market’s going to have a lot more volatility moving forward.”
Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there has been a lot of uncertainty affecting the mortgage market, with COVID, inflation, and the broader economy affecting rates, Tendayi Kapfidze, head of economic analysis at U.S. Bank, told us.
Highs and Lows of the Average 30-Year Fixed Mortgage Rate
Here’s a look at how current mortgage rates compare to the last few years, along with the inflation rate and national home prices for each year.
|2019||2020||2021||2022 (through Feb. 24)|
|Highest 30-year Fixed Mortgage Rate||4.05%||3.88%||3.34%||4.08%|
|Lowest 30-year Fixed Mortgage Rate||3.74%||2.95%||2.93%||3.4%|
|Median Home Sale Price||$274,600||$300,200||$353,400||N/A|
The 4.08% reported last week is the highest the 30-year fixed rate has been since before the pandemic, but it’s on par with rates from 2019, which was still a good year for mortgage rates.
What Other Mortgage Industry Data Show
Freddie Mac is a government-sponsored entity that purchases mortgages on the secondary market. Its methodology and the time in which it collects data differ from other surveys, such as the Bankrate survey referenced in this article. While the mortgage rate averages vary, they show similar trends over time.
What the Latest Mortgage Rates Mean for Homebuyers
The combination of rising mortgage rates and rising prices for homes means affordability may become more of an issue for buyers. To best understand how much you can afford, use a mortgage calculator to see how your homebuying budget is affected by rising interest rates.
Plan ahead by creating a budget before you start looking for a house and stick to it. Experts warn against trying to time the market, and you shouldn’t try to rush a home purchase just because you’re worried prices and interest rates will go up. “Don’t rush into a panic situation,” Glenn Brunker, president of online mortgage lender Ally Home, told us.
Also consider that your decision to buy a house should not be based entirely on what the market is like. It’s a lifestyle choice, and while home prices are going up, so are rents. “The benefits of homeownership do not come exclusively because of mortgage rates,” Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist at Kukun, a property data analytics firm, told us. “They come in spite of mortgage rates.”
Remember that the average rate is just an average, and your actual mortgage rate will depend on more factors, including your location and your personal financial situation. Be sure to shop around and get quotes from multiple lenders. “You want to shop around for loans,” Sharga says. “You can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a loan just by getting multiple quotes.”
Once you’ve been preapproved for a loan, be sure to keep in touch with your loan officer and ensure that the preapproval letter still matches what your lender will offer. Sometimes those letters are for a certain payment amount, meaning your buying power will drop as rates rise, Shashank Shekhar, founder and CEO of InstaMortgage, told us. “When the rates go up suddenly like the rates have, you need to go back to your loan officer and get the preapproval letter checked.”
What the Latest Mortgage Rates Mean for Existing Homeowners
Rates have risen to a point where experts say refinancing simply to lower your interest rate doesn’t make sense for as many people as it did for most of the past two years. The window is still open for some people, especially those who went through the past few years without refinancing and might still be able to get a refinance loan with a rate 0.75% or more lower than their current rate. Mortgage technology and data provider Black Knight recently estimated about 3.8 million high-quality refinance candidates could save by refinancing to a lower rate.
The calculation is different if you’re looking at a cash-out refinance, in which you tap into the equity of your home to get money for another purpose, such as education, home improvements, or to consolidate and pay off higher-interest debt. If you’re doing it to consolidate debt, Sharga says to be careful with your spending habits afterward: Don’t run up more high-interest debt after refinancing.
Homeowners looking into a refinance should also take care not to tap into all of the available equity in their homes, Sharga says. He recommends leaving a cushion of about 20% of equity or more. “It also makes sense for people not to do a refi just for the sake of getting some cash out unless they’re using it for some meaningful purpose,” he says.
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