Despite a slight decrease this week in mortgage rates, the average for the 30-year fixed-rate loan remains more than double what it was a year ago, adding hundreds of dollars per month to financing costs for home buyers. This is prompting more buyers to retreat from the market: Mortgage applications to purchase a home are down 13% week over week and have fallen 37% compared to a year ago, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported this week. “Rates remain quite high compared to just one year ago, meaning housing continues to be more expensive to potential home buyers,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.
Realtor.com® reports that home buyers have lost about $107,000 in buying power this year. That means buyers who budgeted for a $500,000 home at the start of the year may now be able to afford a property worth only $400,000 or less.
For buyers who are able to still financially move forward, more are turning to adjustable-rate mortgages to lock in a lower rate. However, that rate can jump significantly over time. ARM rates are about a percentage point lower than the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. The share of ARMs was 11.8% of mortgage applications last week, up from around 3% earlier this year, the MBA reports.
Will Higher Rates Spark More Urban Flight?
Home buyers may be tempted to expand their search criteria to find places that offer greater affordability farther away from city centers. Nadia Evangelou, senior economist and director of forecasting for the National Association of REALTORS®, notes that rural areas, which are seeing migration gains, continue to be a prime target for buyers. “With mortgage rates near 7%, many people are looking for more affordable homes in less dense areas,” Evangelou writes on the Economists’ Outlook blog. In general, she notes, homes are about 50% less expensive in rural areas and about 20% less expensive in the suburbs than in urban centers.
Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for mortgage rates for the week ending Oct. 6:
- 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 6.66%, with an average 0.8 point, falling slightly from last week’s 6.70%. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 2.99%.
- 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 5.90%, with an average 1 point, dropping from last week’s 5.96% average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 2.23%.
- 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 5.36%, with an average 0.3 point, increasing from last week’s 5.30% average. A year ago, 5-year ARMs averaged 2.52%.
Freddie Mac reports commitment rates along with average points to better reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage.