After pushing higher in recent weeks, mortgage rates have slid back this week to the lowest levels in a month. And that promises to keep lenders very, very busy, particularly as homeowners spot opportunities to cut their monthly payments by refinancing.
Borrowers haven't seen rates this low since the fall of 2016, and here's what's really stunning: Mortgage rates are down almost 1.5 percentage points from where they were a year ago.
If you see a good rate, don't let it get away. Lock it in if you're buying a home or are thinking about a refinance.
This week's numbers
On 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, the current average rate is 3.57%, down from 3.65% last week, mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday.
The benchmark mortgage rate is the lowest since Sept. 12. The loans in the survey come with an average 0.6 point.
Borrowers are getting incredible savings compared to last year at this time, when 30-year mortgages were averaging 4.9%. Yep, they're down nearly 1.5 percentage points since then.
If you took out a home loan in 2018, you might have an opportunity to refinance — and save a ton of money. Check today's best mortgage rates where you are.
Americans who refinanced in the spring of this year are saving an average of about $140 a month, or $1,700 per year, Freddie Mac recently said.
Refi fever is gripping many homeowners. Refinance applications surged 10% last week and were up a jaw-dropping 163% from a year earlier, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Overall mortgage applications rose 5.2% last week.
Why rates are doing what they're doing
Mortgage rates are down this week because uncertainty about the economy has sent the interest on U.S. Treasury bonds falling to their lows for 2019. Rates on home loans tend to track the Treasury yields.
The Federal Reserve may help keep interest rates low — or maybe it won't. Central bank policymakers on Wednesday released the minutes from their September meeting, when they cut rates. The notes indicate officials are divided on whether to reduce rates again this year.
In the meantime, the housing market is humming along, says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac's chief economist.
“The 50-year low in the unemployment rate combined with low mortgage rates has led to increased homebuyer demand this year," Khater says. "Much of this strength is coming from entry-level buyers."
The share of home loans coming from first-time buyers is at a 20-year low, according to Freddie Mac data.
The market for homes is likely to stay healthy, because mortgage rates are expected to stay low. Freddie Mac's current forecast looks for 30-year mortgages to remain below 4% for the rest of 2019.
This week's other mortgage rates
Other mortgage rate options also are down this week.
Rates on 15-year mortgages have dropped to an average 3.05%, from 3.14% last week.
Those shorter-term home loans are a popular choice among homeowners who finance. Last year at this time, 15-year fixed-rate mortgages were averaging 4.29%, Freddie Mac says.
And, rates have fallen on 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, which are level for five years and then can "adjust" up — or down — every year.
ARMs are currently being offered at an average initial rate of 3.35%, down from 3.38% last week. One year ago, the starter rates were averaging 4.07%.
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