The rebound in homebuyer demand continued this week, driven by mortgage rates that hover near record lows. This turnaround in demand, particularly by those who have higher incomes than the typical household, also reflects deferred sales from the Spring.
Given the recent volatility of the ten-year Treasury yield, it’s not surprising that mortgage rates again have dropped. These low rates combined with high consumer confidence continue to drive home sales upward, a trend that is likely to endure as we enter spring.
Mortgage rates fell to the lowest level in thirteen weeks, as investors sought the quality and safety of the U.S. Treasury fixed income markets. The drop in mortgage rates, combined with the strong labor market, should propel a continued rise in homebuyer demand.
With Federal Reserve policy on cruise control and the economy continuing to grow at a steady pace, mortgage rates have stabilized as the market searches for direction. The risk of an economic downturn has receded and, combined with the very strong job market, it should lead to a slightly higher rate environment. Since early September, when mortgage rates posted the year low of 3.49 percent, rates have moved up to 3.73 percent this week. Often, while higher mortgage rates are deleterious, improved economic sentiment is the reason that these higher rates have not impacted mortgage demand so far.
With both the unemployment rate and mortgage rate below four percent and near historic lows, it is no surprise that the housing market regained momentum with home sales and construction at or near decade highs. The fall housing market is poised to continue with steady gains in prices and solid sales activity.
Despite the rise in mortgage rates, economic data improved this week – particularly housing activity, which gained momentum with a noticeable rise in purchase demand and new construction. Homebuyers flocked to lenders with purchase applications, which were up fifteen percent from a year ago and residential construction permits increased twelve percent from a year ago to 1.4 million, the highest level in twelve years. While there was initially a slow response to the overall lower mortgage rate environment this year, it is clear that the housing market is finally improving due to the strong labor market and low mortgage rates.
Pipeline purchase demand continues to improve heading into the late fall with purchase mortgage applications up nine percent from a year ago. The improved demand reflects the still healthy underlying consumer economic fundamentals such as a low unemployment rate, solid wage growth and low mortgage rates. While there has been a material weakness in manufacturing and consistent trade uncertainty, so far, the American consumer has proved to be resilient with solid home purchase demand.
There is a tug of war in the financial markets between weaker business sentiment and consumer sentiment. Business sentiment is declining on negative trade and manufacturing headlines, but consumer sentiment remains buoyed by a strong labor market and low rates that will continue to drive home sales into the fall.
The recent stabilization in mortgage rates reflects modestly improving U.S. economic data and a more accommodative tone from the Federal Reserve to respond to the rising downside economic risk from trade tensions and soft global economic data. On the housing front, the latest weekly purchase application data suggests homebuyer demand continues to rise, which is consistent with the slowly improving real estate data from the last two months.
A recent sharp drop in mortgage rates hasn’t unlocked savings just for those looking to purchase a home—homeowners may also benefit. About 5.9 million borrowers could see their rates drop by at least 75 basis points by refinancing their mortgages, according to Black Knight, a mortgage software and analytics firm. That is up by 2 million in the past month alone.
That’s the largest population of eligible borrower candidates in nearly three years for savings. The savings could add up to about $271 per month per borrower.
The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped below 4% recently, averaging 3.94% in the latest week.
If rates drop another quarter point, Black Knight estimates that 7 million borrowers could then potentially benefit from refinancing their home mortgage.
The drop in mortgage rates is also boosting affordability for home shoppers. The monthly payment on an average-priced home (assuming a 20% down payment) has fallen 6% over the past six months
“When we factor income into the equation, we see that it takes 22% of the median income to purchase the average-priced home,” notes Ben Graboske, president of Black Knight’s data and analytics division. “That’s the lowest payment-to-income ratio in more than a year as well, and far below the long-term average of 25.1%.”
Also, as of May, the monthly payment required to purchase the average-priced house with 20% down is $1,173, the lowest such payment in more than a year.
Economists say rates are dropping due to trade war disputes with China and Mexico. That is prompting lower yields as investors to flock to the bond market, which is typically viewed as a safety net. Mortgage rates loosely follow yields on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note.Original Article