How Low Can Mortgage Rates Get?
According to Freddie Mac, the average 30 year fixed rate mortgage dropped for the 10th consecutive week to a new low of 5.01%. This is the lowest rate reported by Freddie Mac since they began keeping track in 1971.
Rates have moved sharply lower over the past two weeks to all time lows despite the fact that the 10 year treasury bond did not move to new lows. The traditional rate differential between the 10 year treasury and the 30 year fixed rate mortgage has disappeared due to the mortgage crisis and other factors. Risk is now priced higher across all credit markets, including mortgage backed securities (MBS).
The Federal Reserve’s direct purchases of mortgage backed securities initiated late last year was successful in its goal of lowering mortgage rates. The Fed’s direct purchases of MBS has stabilized the mortgage market and lowered rates. There are arguments being put forth that due to the Fed’s intervention, mortgage rates have artificial price support. Nonetheless, if the historical yield spread between the bond and the 30 year mortgage is re-established, we may see a 30 year fixed rate in the 3.5% range. Something to think about for those contemplating a mortgage refinance.
Last week, a borrower with excellent credit, necessary income and home equity was able to obtain a par rate of 4.5%. The question of whether the Fed is manipulating mortgage pricing at this point or how long such price support can last is somewhat irrelevant. The major fact to keep in mind is that the Fed appears to be relentless in its campaign to drive down mortgage rates. If the Fed can stabilize the MBS market we may be looking at mortgages rates in a range we never thought possible a short time ago.
30 year fixed rate mortgages in the mid 3% range would cause a huge refinance surge. Keep in mind that over the past five years, homeowners had multiple opportunities to refinance in the low 5% range. Unless the borrower is taking cash out, it usually does not pay to refinance for less than a one percentage point reduction. At 3.5% rates, it would make sense for almost every homeowner with a mortgage to refinance again.