Despite the rise in mortgage rates, economic data improved this week – particularly housing activity, which gained momentum with a noticeable rise in purchase demand and new construction. Homebuyers flocked to lenders with purchase applications, which were up fifteen percent from a year ago and residential construction permits increased twelve percent from a year ago to 1.4 million, the highest level in twelve years. While there was initially a slow response to the overall lower mortgage rate environment this year, it is clear that the housing market is finally improving due to the strong labor market and low mortgage rates.
Pipeline purchase demand continues to improve heading into the late fall with purchase mortgage applications up nine percent from a year ago. The improved demand reflects the still healthy underlying consumer economic fundamentals such as a low unemployment rate, solid wage growth and low mortgage rates. While there has been a material weakness in manufacturing and consistent trade uncertainty, so far, the American consumer has proved to be resilient with solid home purchase demand.
There is a tug of war in the financial markets between weaker business sentiment and consumer sentiment. Business sentiment is declining on negative trade and manufacturing headlines, but consumer sentiment remains buoyed by a strong labor market and low rates that will continue to drive home sales into the fall.
The recent stabilization in mortgage rates reflects modestly improving U.S. economic data and a more accommodative tone from the Federal Reserve to respond to the rising downside economic risk from trade tensions and soft global economic data. On the housing front, the latest weekly purchase application data suggests homebuyer demand continues to rise, which is consistent with the slowly improving real estate data from the last two months.
A recent sharp drop in mortgage rates hasn’t unlocked savings just for those looking to purchase a home—homeowners may also benefit. About 5.9 million borrowers could see their rates drop by at least 75 basis points by refinancing their mortgages, according to Black Knight, a mortgage software and analytics firm. That is up by 2 million in the past month alone.
That’s the largest population of eligible borrower candidates in nearly three years for savings. The savings could add up to about $271 per month per borrower.
The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped below 4% recently, averaging 3.94% in the latest week.
If rates drop another quarter point, Black Knight estimates that 7 million borrowers could then potentially benefit from refinancing their home mortgage.
The drop in mortgage rates is also boosting affordability for home shoppers. The monthly payment on an average-priced home (assuming a 20% down payment) has fallen 6% over the past six months
“When we factor income into the equation, we see that it takes 22% of the median income to purchase the average-priced home,” notes Ben Graboske, president of Black Knight’s data and analytics division. “That’s the lowest payment-to-income ratio in more than a year as well, and far below the long-term average of 25.1%.”
Also, as of May, the monthly payment required to purchase the average-priced house with 20% down is $1,173, the lowest such payment in more than a year.
Economists say rates are dropping due to trade war disputes with China and Mexico. That is prompting lower yields as investors to flock to the bond market, which is typically viewed as a safety net. Mortgage rates loosely follow yields on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note.Original Article
Mortgage rates were mostly unchanged from last week due to easing of trade tensions with Mexico which helped stabilize markets. These historically low rates should provide continued opportunities for current homeowners to refinance their mortgages – which combined with new homebuyer activity – will help sustain the momentum in the housing market in 2019.
While the drop in mortgage rates is a good opportunity for consumers to save on their mortgage payment, our research indicates that there can be a wide dispersion among mortgage rate offers. By shopping around and getting a single additional mortgage rate quote, a borrower can save an average of $1,500. These low rates are also good news for current homeowners. With rates dipping below four percent, there are over $2 trillion of outstanding conforming conventional mortgages eligible to be refinanced – meaning the majority of what was originated in 2018 is now eligible.
Mortgage rates fell for the fourth consecutive week and continued the medium-term trend of lower rates since late 2018. The drop in mortgage rates is causing purchase demand to rise and the mix of demand is skewing to the higher end as more affluent consumers are typically more responsive to declines in rates.
Investors wary of the current economic situation due to ongoing trade disputes resorted to the bond market, causing the 10-year treasury yield to decrease. A combination of low mortgage rates, a strong job market and modest wage growth should spur homebuyer interest and also serve as an incentive for homeowners looking to refinance.
Despite the recent rise in mortgage rates, both existing and new home sales continue to show strength – indicating the lagged effect of lower rates on housing demand. This, along with improved affordability, should push housing activity higher in the coming months.