This week's housing data go to the bears and those who are looking (and able) to buy or refinance. Mortgage rates again hit record lows. This time the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell to 3.75 percent and the 15-year rate fell to 2.97 percent as market concerns over Eurozone tensions continued to pressure long-term Treasury bond yields.
Compared to a year ago, rates on 30-year fixed mortgage rates are almost 0.9 percentage points lower, which adds up to nearly $1,200 less in annual payments on a $200,000 loan, according to Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist Frank Nothaft.
Here's a look at mortgage rates:
Average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage - Freddie Mac
Housing bottom calls have not been hard to find the last day, week, month or few years -- for one, guest columnist, housing guru and author of the Calculated Risk blog, Bill McBride, wrote this week that housing may have hit an inflection point, and "there are several signs that prices may already be at or near a bottom."
But the data, at least on the surface, have been bleak. The record low rates follow a string of weak spring housing figures this week: the Case-Shiller 20-city index fell 2.6% in March, the Mortgage Bankers Association's mortgage index fell 1.3% last week, and pending home sales fell 5.5% in April.
S&P said earlier in the week that data through March 2012 for the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices showed that all three headline composites and five cities ended the first quarter of 2012 at their lowest levels since the housing crisis began in 2006. After close to six straight months of price declines across most cities, the good news is on a regional basis -- twelve cities saw average home prices rise in March.
"While there has been improvement in some regions, housing prices have not turned," said David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices.
Prices and rates have encouraged demand -- the larger trend for mortgage activity is up, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. The four week moving average for the seasonally adjusted Market Index is up 3.23 percent. But that's mostly refinancing -- the four week moving average for the refinance index is up 4.36%, while the purchase index is down 0.67%. Applications for refinancing made up 76.6 percent of total applications.
Have you refinanced (or tried to refinance)? Are you a buyer -- or staying the heck away? Trying to sell? Or just following the great housing debate? Share your thoughts and experiences below!