Monday, December 13, 2010

Will Rising Mortgage Rates Spur Home Sales?

The historically low mortgage rates we’ve seen over the last year or so haven’t done much to spur home sales, but raising the rates might? Seems strange, but some experts are predicting that increasing rates might just push Americans into buying.

According to, rates surged to a six-month high this past week after President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans agreed to extend tax cuts for two years.

    Though the deal is still being debated in Washington, financial markets interpreted the development as likely to accelerate the economic recovery but also swell the budget deficit. Though the yield on the benchmark 10-year bond has retreated some, it has still increased 21 basis points this week.

    Because yields on Treasuries, especially the 10-year bond, largely influence mortgage rates, borrowing costs for mortgages have suddenly gone up. The average rate for a 30-year fix loan increased to 4.61% in the week ended Thursday from 4.46% the previous week, following a fourth week of increases, according to Freddie Mac (FMCC). The average 15-year rate rose to 3.96% from 3.81%. These rates are the highest they've been since June.

    This follows a period of historically low mortgage rates. But even though borrowing costs for new home loans are cheap, they haven't exactly spurred the kind of home buying that one would expect. What's more, lower rates haven't spawned much refinancing, since many home owners are stuck holding property valued at less than what they owe on their mortgages. The latest Case Schiller Index reported that home prices nationwide declined 2% during the three months ending in September, after rising 2.4% during the previous quarter. According to Zillow, home prices have lost $1.7 trillion in value in the past year.

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