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For Mortgage Rates, What a Difference a Year Makes

Doug Whiteman
For Mortgage Rates, What a Difference a Year Makes

Mortgage rates are mixed this week — some up, some down — but you see the real story when you compare rates right now to where they were a year ago.

Today's mortgage rates are nearly a full percentage point lower. That means borrowers are getting huge savings compared to that time not long ago when Drake was topping the charts with "In My Feelings" ("Kiki, do you love me? ...") and Crazy Rich Asians was still playing in theaters.

If you see a good rate and are shopping for a house or are open to refinancing, you may want to lock that rate now.

This week's numbers

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Homeowners who refinance are finding they can save about $140 a month, on average.

The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has gone up this week to 3.58%, from 3.55% last week, says mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

The loans in the survey come with an average 0.5 point.

One year ago, the benchmark mortgage rate was much higher, averaging 4.52%.

Rates have come down so much that it might be worth your while to refinance an existing home loan — even if it's only a year old. Freddie Mac said recently that homeowners who refinanced in the spring of this year are saving an average of $1,700 per year, or about $140 a month.

Refinance applications fell 8% last week, says the Mortgage Bankers Association. Mortgage applications overall were down 6.2%.

Why rates are doing what they're doing

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Thirty-year mortgage rates are down about 1 full percentage point versus a year ago.

Borrowers are getting serious bargains on mortgages this summer, says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac's chief economist.

"Mortgage rates inched up slightly this week, closing the month with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate averaging 3.6% — almost a full percent from the same time last year," he says.

Because of what Freddie Mac calls "enormous downward pressure on long-term interest rates around the world," its new forecast looks for mortgage rates to stay right about where they are now — at around 3.6%, on average — through the first half of 2020.

That will bolster the broader economy, says Khater.

"Low mortgage rates along with a strong labor market are fueling the consumer-driven economy by boosting their purchasing power," he says, "which will certainly support housing market activity in the coming months."

Housing prices are likely to rise 3.4% this year, according to the Freddie Mac forecast.

This week's other mortgage rates

Rates on 15-year mortgages — which are popular among consumers who refinance — have risen to an average 3.06%, from 3.03% last week.

A year ago, those short-term home loans were averaging 3.97%, on average, Freddie Mac says.

But rates keep slipping on 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, which are level for five years and then can "adjust" up (or down) each year.

Those ARMs are currently being offered at an average initial rate of 3.31%, down from 3.32% last week. Last year at this time, the starter rates were at an average 3.85%.

When you apply for a mortgage, you'll need down payment money. Find a savings account at a great rate, and start setting that cash aside.

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