The housing market is facing challenges as mortgage rates reach a 22-year high. According to Freddie Mac, the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is 7.23 percent, the highest since June 2001. This increase in rates has led to a decline in home sales compared to the previous year. Additionally, sellers who secured low rates during the pandemic are hesitant to put their homes on the market due to concerns about finding comparable rates as buyers.
Various factors influence mortgage rates, with the bond market being a significant driver. Mortgage rates typically follow the yield on the 10-year Treasury bond, which is considered a safe investment. The recent increase in the yield on the 10-year Treasury note reflects the Federal Reserve's efforts to control inflation by raising borrowing costs. As short-term interest rates rise, banks increase their rates on consumer loans, including mortgages.
A strong economy also affects mortgage rates. A robust job market increases household income, leading to higher demand for mortgages and subsequently higher rates. Lenders often bundle mortgages into portfolios and sell them as mortgage-backed securities to investors. To remain competitive with the 10-year Treasury bond, lenders need to increase the yields on these securities, resulting in higher mortgage rates.
Economists predict that mortgage rates will remain elevated for the next few months, even when they start to decline. Rates are expected to settle above the 3 percent rates seen during the early stages of the pandemic. However, experts anticipate a gradual decrease in rates by the end of the year, possibly reaching 6 percent by spring.
Despite the challenging market conditions, home buyers can take steps to secure lower rates. Maintaining a strong credit score and providing a sizable down payment, typically 20 percent of the purchase price, can increase the chances of obtaining a lower rate. Shopping around and comparing rates from multiple lenders is also recommended. Additionally, home buyers can consider refinancing their mortgage when rates drop in the future.