Real Estate

A residential neighborhood in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, May 22, 2022.
Jordan Vonderhaar | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The average rate on the popular 30-year fixed mortgage dropped to 6.57% on Monday, according to Mortgage News Daily. That’s down from a rate of 6.76% on Friday and a recent high of 7.05% last Wednesday.

Mortgage rates loosely follow the yield on the 10-year Treasury, which fell to a one-month low in response to the failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank and the ensuing ripple through the nation’s banking sector.

In real terms, for a buyer looking at a $500,000 home with a 20% down payment on a 30-year fixed mortgage, the monthly payment this week is $128 less than it was just last week. It is still, however, higher than it was in January.

So what does this mean for the spring housing market?

In October, rates surged over 7%, and that started the real slowdown in home sales. But rates then started falling in December and were near 6% by the end of January. That caused a surprising 8% monthly jump in pending home sales, which is the National Association of Realtors’ measure of signed contracts on existing homes. Sales of newly built homes, which the Census Bureau measures by signed contracts, also surged far higher than expected.

While the numbers for February are not in yet, anecdotally, agents and builders have said sales took a big step back in February as rates shot higher. So if rates continue to drop now, buyers could return once again — but that’s a big “if.”

“This mini banking crisis has to drive a change in consumer behavior in order to have a lasting positive impact on rates. It’s still all about inflation,” said Matthew Graham, chief operating officer at Mortgage News Daily.

Markets now have to contend with the “inflationary impact of consumer fear,” he added, noting that Tuesday brings a fresh consumer price index report, a monthly measure of inflation in the economy.

As recently as last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told members of Congress that the latest economic data has come in stronger than expected.

“If the totality of the data were to indicate that faster tightening is warranted, we would be prepared to increase the pace of rate hikes,” Powell said.

While mortgage rates don’t follow the federal funds rate exactly, they are heavily influenced by both the Fed’s monetary policy and its thinking on the future of inflation.

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