Mortgage Rates Rise but Are Still Way Down From a Year Ago

Doug Whiteman
Mortgage Rates Rise but Are Still Way Down From a Year Ago

Mortgage rates have jumped this week, but there's no need to feel gloomy if you haven't taken advantage of this year's drop in rates.

The rates on home loans remain drastically lower than they were last year at this time, so you might still save a ton of money by refinancing an existing mortgage.

Many homeowners have figured that out, because the level of refinance applications is three times what it was a year ago.

If you spot a good mortgage rate while you're considering a refinance or shopping for a home, lock it in — and don't let it slip away.

This week's numbers

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Homeowners who refinance are finding they can save big.

The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has risen this week to 3.69%, from 3.57% last week, mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday.

The benchmark mortgage rate is at its highest point since mid-September. The loans in the Freddie Mac survey come with an average 0.6 point.

Borrowers continue to enjoy big savings compared to last year at this time, when 30-year mortgages were more than a full percentage point higher: averaging 4.85%.

Use this calculator to see the kind of monthly payment you can expect from today's low mortgage rates.

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 said recently.

Homeowners have been in a refi frenzy. Refinance applications rose 4% last week and were coming in at triple the pace of a year ago — up a staggering 199% compared to the same week in 2018, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Overall mortgage applications edged up 0.5% last week.

Why rates are doing what they're doing

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First-time buyers are helping to drive the demand for homes.

Mortgage rates are higher this week because positive news developments — including a possible Brexit deal in Britain and a likely end to the month-old General Motors strike — have pushed the interest on 10-year Treasury notes higher.

The Treasury yields tend to set the pace for mortgage rates.

But this week's rise in mortgage rates shouldn't cause any serious damage, says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac's chief economist.

"The housing market remains on the upswing with improvement in construction and home sales,” Khater says. “While there has been a material weakness in manufacturing and consistent trade uncertainty, other economic trends like employment and homebuilder sentiment are encouraging.”

Demand for homes has been so hot that the U.S. is facing a housing shortage. The nation's inventory of homes last month was 2.5% smaller than during September 2018, Realtor.com has reported.

Freddie Mac has said that much of the demand for houses is being driven by entry-level homebuyers. The share of mortgages going to first-time buyers is at a 20-year high.

The market for homes is likely to stay healthy because mortgage rates are expected to remain appealingly low. Thirty-year mortgages should remain below 4% for the rest of 2019, according to Freddie Mac's current forecast.

This week's other mortgage rates

Other mortgage options are mixed this week.

The average rate on a 15-year mortgage has climbed to 3.15%, from 3.05% last week.

Those shorter-term home loans are popular with homeowners who finance. Last year at this time, 15-year fixed-rate mortgages were averaging a steeper 4.26%, Freddie Mac says.

Rates are flat 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%, same as last week. One year ago, the starter rates on adjustable-rate mortgages were averaging 4.10%.

Check out today's best mortgage rates where you live.

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