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Mortgage Rates Edge Higher for First Time in 2015

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A surge in new-construction home sales caused mortgage interest rates to inch higher this week for the first time this year.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.66% for the week ending Jan. 29, according to the Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey. It averaged 3.63% last week and was as high as 4.32% last year this time.

New-home sales rose 11.6% in December, surpassing market expectations, according to a joint release by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Existing-home sales also rose 2.4% in December, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

“Mortgage rates ticked up this week for the first time in 2015 following positive home sales reports,” said Len Kiefer, deputy chief economist at Freddie Mac.

Last year more than 4.93 million homes were sold, yet that’s 3.1% lower than the 2013 figure of 5.09 million, according to NAR. Home sales in 2014 were negatively affected by lower inventory. The total number of available houses for sale dropped more than 11% in December, according to NAR.

“A drop in housing supply in December raises some affordability concerns in the months ahead as minimal selection and the potential for faster price appreciation could offset the demand from buyers encouraged by a stronger economy and sub-4% interest rates,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

Indeed, 42% of mortgage experts surveyed by Bankrate.com expect mortgage rates

to remain unchanged while another 42% expect them to drop next week. Also, 16% said they believe mortgage rates will increase next week.

“Mortgage interest rates remain extremely attractive right now, but we don’t want to get too complacent thinking that they’ll remain at this level forever,” said David Kuiper, vice president of Northpointe Bank in Holland, MI.

The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.98% this week, up from 2.93% last week. A year ago this time, it averaged 3.4%, according to Freddie Mac.

The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 2.86% this week, up from 2.83% last week. A year ago this time, it was 3.12%, according to Freddie Mac.

Continuing the upward trend, the 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.38% this week, rising slightly from 2.37% last week. Last year at this time, it averaged 2.55%.

As rates climb, mortgage applications are declining. Applications decreased 3.2% from one week earlier, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending Jan. 23. The Refinance Index declined 5% from the previous week, while the seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased slightly.

The bright spot in mortgage activity seems to be FHA financing. The share of applications for FHA loans increased to 9.1% this week from 8% last week, according to the association. This comes on the heels of the Obama administration cutting the mortgage insurance premiums on FHA loans in half.


Category: Mortgage interest

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