The good news: In the past four months, the U.S. economy gained 1.125 million jobs. The slightly more frustrating news: In that time, 30-year fixed mortgage rates dropped from an average of nearly 4% to 3.67% in January. They are now slowly ticking back up, hitting 3.86% this week.
This is how it goes. As more people get jobs, they have more money to spend. Because they have more money to spend, banks increase the interest rates they apply to mortgages. Such was the case this week, as rates rose due to last Friday’s better-than-expected jobs report:
- 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.86%, up from 3.75% last week and down from 4.37% a year ago.
- 15-year FRM averaged 3.10%, up from 3.03% last week and down from 3.38% a year ago.
- 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 3.01%, up from 2.96% last week and down from 3.09% a year ago.
- 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.46%, up slightly from 2.44% last week and down slightly from 2.48% last year.
While the rising rates might make you anxious, please keep calm—they’re still really low.
“Since last March, rates have fallen 0.7%, a 9% stimulus to home prices. For all but the most affluent home buyers, payment trumps price, and sellers now have the ability to raise prices again,” according to John Burns Real Estate Consulting.
And so home prices are rising, and every uptick in interest rates makes housing affordability an issue. The more interest you pay, the less home you can qualify to purchase.
A family with a $60,000 annual income, and no debt, could qualify for a $245,000 house with a $1,800-a-month mortgage payment at a whopping 8% interest rate, according to Burns Consulting. But with rates hovering around 4%, that same family would qualify for $377,000. Lower rates mean higher purchasing power.
And because more Americans are employed—the national unemployment rate is 5.5%—an improving economy means more people can actually buy houses (at least we hope).
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