Although home prices are rising, mortgage rates have dropped to their lowest point in three years. As of Tuesday, the average rate for a 30-year conforming mortgage nationally was 3.6 percent, down 2 basis points from a week ago. This drop in rates offers buyers nearly 6 percent more buying power than they had at the end of last year.
Realtor.com®’s Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke predicts that rates will likely remain attractively low, yet volatile, as we enter the peak home-buying months of the year.
“The average 30-year rate will likely remain under 4 percent throughout the spring and summer and into the early fall,” says Smoke. “The average forecast sees the 30-year conforming rate ending the year at 4.21 percent, which would be 12 basis points higher than we ended 2015.”
Of course, low rates offer both pros and cons.
“There are downsides to lower mortgage rates,” Smoke reminds us. “One disadvantage is that credit availability declines marginally as the rates decline. With little margin, lenders become more risk averse, so indicators of credit tightness like the average FICO score have ticked up as rates have gone down.”
According to Smoke, buyers should monitor rates closely and expect fluctuations. “In this type of environment, it will be crucial for would-be buyers or refinancers to stay on top of rates, work closely with mortgage brokers or lenders, and learn about options like locks and float-downs. Given how volatile rates have been this year, borrowers are likely to see both lower and higher rates from time of application to time of closing, which is what makes these options potentially attractive. However, they do come at a price, so you need to weigh the potential gains against the costs with your lender.”
For more information, visit www.realtor.com.