For the fifth time since early March, mortgage interest rates have dropped to a record low in a closely watched survey that's been tracking rates since 1971.
Mortgage giant Freddie Mac says its weekly survey could show even lower rates later in the year.
But rates could rise in the near term as investors react to the government's blockbuster jobs report for June. America's unemployment rate fell from 13.3% to 11.1% last month as employers coming out of coronavirus lockdowns added a record 4.8 million jobs, officials reported on Thursday.
Whenever positive economic news pushes stocks higher, interest rates tend to rise, too. So if you're hoping to score an unbelievably low mortgage rate to buy a home or refinance right now, you may need to move quickly.
Mortgage rates hit another record low
Mortgage rates have been in a downward spiral, and last week it spun them all the way down to an average 3.07% for a 30-year fixed-rate home loan, mortgage company Freddie Mac reported on Thursday. That was down from 3.13% a week earlier.
The average rate is the lowest ever in Freddie Mac's nearly 50-year-old survey and is the latest in a long string of new lows that began on March 5, in the early days of the health crisis.
The survey rates come with an average 0.8 point. One year ago, borrowers were landing 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaging 3.75%.
"Mortgage rates continue to slowly drift downward with a distinct possibility that the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage could dip below 3% later this year," says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.
Another, more frequent survey of lenders already has been turning up rates under 3%: Mortgage News Daily says 30-year rates went into the long holiday weekend at an average 2.94%, which is the lowest the publication has ever seen.
And, borrowers who are excellent comparison shoppers have been able to find mortgage rates as insanely low as 2.5%.
Rates tumbled last week as the financial markets nervously watched the U.S. coronavirus numbers explode, says Matthew Speakman, an economist with Zillow.
"If the uptick in cases does indeed prevent states or cities from continuing their plans to reopen, or even prompt more closures, then rates would likely plunge further and reach new lows," Speakman says.
The risk of rising rates from the jobs report
But rates could head upward if there are signs the economy is continuing "its slow reversion to 'normal,'" says Speakman.
At first glance, the strong June jobs report appeared to be one of those signs. The jobless rate skyrocketed in April to 14.7%, the worst since the Great Depression, but it has been coming down steadily since then.
"The normal implication would be for upward pressure on interest rates. That said, any troubling developments in terms of COVID case counts could easily offset a strong jobs number," writes Matthew Graham, chief operating officer of Mortgage News Daily.
Even so, Wall Street celebrated the employment report by rallying, and there's a risk mortgage rates could rise along with stock prices, which often happens. If you're currently in the market for a mortgage, you may want to get to work on shopping around to find a low rate — so you won't miss your chance.
Homeowners who refinance mortgages with rates close to 4% (and there are plenty of those loans out there) have the potential to cut their monthly payments by hundreds of dollars.
And when homebuyers snag low mortgage rates, it can take some of the sting out of the need to bid high in a housing market that's short on homes for sale.
"Since Maryland and Washington, D.C., eased the lockdown during the second week of May, the market has been on fire," says Corey Burr, senior vice president with Sotheby's International Realty in Chevy Chase, Maryland. "Buyers in today’s hot market need to be prepared to make an outstanding offer that beats the competition."
Supplies of houses are tight because some potential sellers have been leery about having buyers troop through their homes during the pandemic.
Other popular mortgage rates
Rates on other popular types of home loans also have gone down, Freddie Mac says.
The average for a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage fell last week to 2.56%, from 2.59% the previous week. Those shorter-term loans are a popular refinance option, and they're much cheaper than they were a year ago, when rates were averaging 3.18%.
And, rates on 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgages have slid. Those loans are known as "ARMs" and have rates that are fixed for five years and then can adjust up or down every year, moving along the same path with a benchmark interest rate, like the prime rate.
ARMs were being offered last week at initial rates averaging an even 3%, down from 3.08% a week earlier. Last year at this time, the typical starter rate on those mortgages was 3.45%.
Be sure to comparison shop for your homeowners insurance the same way you comparison shop for a mortgage. You can easily go online and get several home insurance quotes to compare rates and find the best policy.