U.S. mortgage rates have continued their decline, falling below 5% for the first time since April.
According to a survey released by Freddie Mac on Thursday, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has fallen to an average of 4.99%. Just one week ago, rates were averaging around 5.30%. This is the second week in a row that mortgage rates have fallen, and it also marks the sharpest drop in the cost of borrowing money for a home since early July.
Mortgage rates have been on a general upward climb for more than a year. This time last year, 30-year mortgages were hovering around 2.77%. Rates peaked in late June when they hit an average of 5.81%.
The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage has also dipped, from 4.58% last week to 4.26%. But once again, these rates are still significantly higher than this time last year, when a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged at 2.10%.
Higher mortgage rates can make it more difficult for people to buy homes because a higher rate means a more expensive monthly payment, which can price some buyers out of the market.
Housing demand dropped sharply in June in part due to the rising cost of borrowing. Housing prices have been on the decline as well, though they were still higher in June than they were a year ago, according to Black Knight, a mortgage software, data and analytics firm.
“Lower mortgage rates, combined with signs of more inventory coming to the market, could lead to a rebound in purchase activity,” Joel Kan, the Mortgage Bankers Association’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, said in a CNBC interview Wednesday.
Already, the number of mortgage applications has been climbing due to the drop in mortgage rates from last week. As of Wednesday, total mortgage demand had risen by 1.2%, the first rise since June 24.
This is all happening amid a mixed economic environment in the United States, with some fearing that a recession could be on the horizon. Last week, the Federal Reserve raised the key interest rate by 0.75% — the second consecutive rate hike of that magnitude and the fourth overall since March — to combat inflation.
While the Federal Reserve does not directly control mortgage rates, these rates tend to be correlated.
Despite the recent rate declines, it remains unclear what the trajectory will be in the long term. “Mortgage rates remained volatile due to the tug of war between inflationary pressures and a clear slowdown in economic growth,” Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, said in a statement.
“The high uncertainty surrounding inflation and other factors will likely cause rates to remain variable, especially as the Federal Reserve attempts to navigate the current economic environment.”