By Anna Bahney, CNN
Washington, DC (CNN) — Mortgage rates continued to fall this week, averaging just over 7%. It is the sixth straight week rates have dropped, undoing seven previous consecutive weeks of increases.
The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to an average of 7.03% in the week ending December 7, down from 7.22% the week before, according to data from Freddie Mac released Thursday. A year ago, the average 30-year fixed-rate was 6.33%
The average mortgage rate is based on mortgage applications that Freddie Mac receives from thousands of lenders across the country. The survey includes only borrowers who put 20% down and have excellent credit. A current buyer’s rate may be different.
“Although these lower rates remain a welcome relief, it is clear they will have to further drop to more consistently reinvigorate demand,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.
The average rate rose above 7% in mid-August and reached as high as 7.79% at the end of October. But several weeks of declining rates could be a sign that the highest mortgage rates of this cycle have passed, welcome news for would-be buyers facing the least affordable market since the 1980s.
Home buyer sentiment at record low
Mortgage applications increased for the fifth consecutive week, ending December 1, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
Bob Broeksmit MBA’s CEO, said the increase was a strong indication that borrower demand is rising as a result of the recent decline in mortgage rates.
“The market outlook continues to improve as 2023 closes, with mortgage rates now down almost a full percentage point from their recent highs a few months ago,” he said.
Still, mortgage applications to purchase a home were 17% lower than a year ago, held back by low inventory and still-challenging affordability conditions, according to MBA.
Despite dropping rates being a promising break for homebuyers, only 14% of consumers believed it is a good time to buy a home in November, a record low, according to the monthly Home Purchase Sentiment Index from Fannie Mae.
Pessimism regarding the state of the housing market has been persistent, with the share of consumers saying it is a “bad time to buy” breaking records several times this year – including in November, said Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief Economist.
“Each time the pessimism could be attributed to high home prices and high mortgage rates,” Duncan said.
The survey shows a significant majority of respondents have also continued to expect mortgage rates to increase or stay the same, though these expectations have tempered over the year.
“At the same time, consumers have expressed a reduced sense of financial security, with fewer respondents reporting household income growth over the year and a higher percentage saying their incomes remained the same,” said Duncan.
Watching the upcoming Fed meeting
Inflation has dropped significantly in reaction to the Federal Reserve’s historic rate hikes of the past two years.
Investors and analysts are eying next week’s Fed meeting for hints about the Fed’s monetary policy stance in 2024.
Although Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said last week that it was too early to conclude that the current monetary policy is restrictive enough to tame inflation down to the 2% target, recent economic data has boosted investors’ confidence that the Federal Reserve may be done with rate hikes, said Jiayi Xu, economist at Realtor.com
Following the October job openings data, which showed some cooling in the labor market when it was released on Tuesday, the 10-year treasury yield dropped to its lowest level in three months.
While the Fed does not set the interest rates that borrowers pay on mortgages directly, its actions influence them. Mortgage rates track the yield on 10-year US Treasuries, which move based on anticipation about the Fed’s actions, what the Fed ends up doing and investors’ reactions. When Treasury yields go up, so do mortgage rates; when they go down, mortgage rates tend to follow.
“Looking ahead, we predict that sustained improvement in inflation will bring the mortgage rate down to 6.5% by the end of 2024,” said Xu. “Nonetheless, as mortgage rates stay elevated, ongoing high housing costs indicate that the cooling trend in the nationwide housing market is likely to persist.”
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