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Mortgage Rates Tick Up

Approaching Seven Percent

 

Modest Uptick in Mortgage Rates  

Nearing the Seven Percent Mark 

[Credit, Freddie Mac, March 21, 2024]

Mortgage rates are starting to rise again after a brief period of decline. This change comes as the spring homebuying season begins, with a slight increase in the number of existing homes available and a pickup in new home construction. Despite these higher rates, homebuilders are feeling more positive about the housing market. They’re seeing pent-up demand, a shortage of homes for sale, and they expect the Federal Reserve to lower rates later in the year. According to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey® as of March 21, 2024, the average weekly rates in the U.S. show the 30-year Fixed-Rate Mortgage (FRM) at 6.87%, and the 15-year FRM at 6.21%.

Overview of the U.S. Housing and Mortgage Market 

In January 2024, Freddie Mac’s indicators showed total home sales (existing + new) were at 4.66 million, up 2.9% from December 2023 but down 1.2% from January 2023. Existing home sales saw a 3.1% increase from December 2023 to 4.0 million in January, the largest monthly gain in a year. However, they’re still 1.7% lower than January 2023 levels. The existing housing inventory in January 2024 grew slightly by 2% from December 2023, reaching 1.01 million units, representing a 3.0-month supply at the current sales pace. The median price rose to $379,100, up by 5.1% from last year, contributing to affordability challenges in the market..

New Home Sales 

In January 2024, new home sales were at 661,000, 1.5% higher than December 2023. With affordability becoming more difficult, 62% of builders offered sales incentives in January, while 25% reduced prices according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Housing starts decreased by 14.8% from December 2023, mainly due to a 35.8% decline in multifamily unit construction. Despite a slowdown in December, house prices continued to rise, with the FHFA Purchase-Only Home Price Index for December 2023 increasing by 0.1% month-over-month and 6.6% year-over-year.

Outlook

Looking ahead, the U.S. economic outlook remains positive, with analysts expecting modest growth. However, they anticipate a slower pace compared to the previous year, leading to slower job growth and a slight increase in the unemployment rate. Inflation is expected to remain above 2% due to a growing economy, delaying potential rate cuts by the Federal Reserve until at least summer. Analysts forecast mortgage rates to stay above 6.5% for the near future. Despite challenges like high mortgage rates and limited inventory, analysts expect a modest recovery in home sales later in the year as rates decrease.

Final Thoughts

While analysts remain optimistic, there’s a need for caution as the battle against persistent inflation could extend. Any deterioration in credit quality could impact housing demand, although major negative credit events are not expected under the baseline scenario.  

By Ready Rate, Updated March 23, 2024 

 

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