MORTGAGE rates in 2010 were the lowest in six decades, but a recent and sustained increase may indicate that consumers can expect to pay more in the new year to buy or refinance a home.
After hitting rock bottom in mid-November, fixed rates for 30-year mortgages, the most common type of home loan, have steadily risen.
With this year’s historically low rates, “there is a good chance that we have peaked, give or take a few basis points,” said HSH Associates, an independent publisher of mortgage and consumer loan information, in its most recent trends forecast. (One basis point is 0.01 percent.) According to Christopher J. Mayer, a senior vice dean and a professor of real estate, finance and economics at the Columbia University Business School, “The window of low rates could have left us.”
By Dec. 16, rates for a 30-year fixed loan rose for the fifth consecutive week, to 4.83 percent, up from 4.17 percent on Nov. 11, according to Freddie Mac, the government-controlled buyer of loans. Rates in the Northeast, which are often a tenth of a point or more above the national level, were on average the same as those across the nation. But by Thursday they had nudged downward, to 4.81 percent.
Mortgage rates typically track those of 10-year and 30-year Treasury and other government bonds. Yields, or interest rates, on those notes have been rising amid lender concerns that the White House’s deal with Congress on Dec. 7. to extend the Bush-era tax cuts and the Federal Reserve’s move in early November to buy back $600 billion in debt to stimulate economic growth will combine to fuel inflation and swell the budget deficit.
The 4.17 rate last month was the lowest since Freddie Mac began tracking rates in 1971 — as well as the lowest since World War II, according to Weiss Research, a financial analysis and publishing firm in Jupiter, Fla. The high point last year was 5.21 percent, in April.
So if you took out a 30-year fixed note for $400,000 at the recent 4.83 percent, you are paying $93 less per month than you would have in April — but nearly $157 more than you would have at the 4.17 percent benchmark.
Refinancing or buying a home is still more affordable, compared with the rates of 6 percent to 8 percent over most of this decade. (A table of historical rates is at http://www.freddiemac.com/pmms/pmms30.htm)