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Mortgage rates dive deeper, extending the boon for borrowers

MoneyWise logo MoneyWise 10/24/2020 Ethan Rotberg
a large green field in front of a house: Mortgage rates dive even deeper: survey © romakoma / Shutterstock Mortgage rates dive even deeper: survey

Mortgage rates have dropped even further and have extended their record-setting run, according to a popular survey. .

As a result, rates on 30-year fixed-rate home loans today are more than a full percentage point lower than where they averaged over the last five years, mortgage giant Freddie Mac says.

All-time-low rates continue to spark a borrowing frenzy among homeowners, with refinance requests maintaining a blistering pace.

Potential homeowners are taking advantage of the low-rate environment, too, despite low numbers of homes for sale.

Rates find new depths

Lillac / Shutterstock © Provided by MoneyWise Lillac / Shutterstock

Mortgage rates hit an all-time low for a second week in a row, and for the 11th time since the pandemic began in March, Freddie Mac said on Thursday.

Rates for a 30-year fixed-rate home loan are averaging 2.80%, a tick down from the previous week’s 2.81%, and almost a full percentage lower than this time last year, when rates stood at an average 3.75%.

“Mortgage rates remain very low, providing homeowners who have not already taken advantage of this environment ample opportunity to do so,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

Even against the backdrop of an unrelenting shortage of houses on the market, sales of existing single-family homes rose in September at their fastest annual rate since 2010, the National Association of Realtors reported Thursday.


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“Low mortgage rates are enabling buyers to tackle higher home prices and secure a place of their own, with a largely fixed monthly cost,” says Realtor.com chief economist Danielle Hale.

“Greater buyer and, perhaps more importantly, seller confidence also helped boost home sales activity this month,” she adds.

The Freddie Mac survey shows rates on other popular mortgages also have dipped. The average for a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage declined to 2.33%, from 2.35% a week earlier. Rates on those mortgages, often used for refinance loans, remain just a fraction of what they were a year ago, when the average was 3.18%.

Rates on 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, are averaging 2.87%, down from the prior week’s 2.90%, and way down from last year’s 3.40%.

Homeowners still have opportunities to save thousands

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“Low- and moderate-income borrowers who purchased during the last few years stand to benefit by exploring refinancing to lower their monthly payment,” says Freddie Mac’s Khater.

Overall refi requests have been shooting higher, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, with applications for those loans up an eye-popping 74% compared to a year ago.

But many homeowners are still holding back. An estimated 19.3 million mortgage holders could refinance and lower their interest rates enough to reduce their monthly payments by an average $299, according to research from the mortgage data firm Black Knight.

Borrowers who procrastinate risk missing out on savings, because a new 0.5% fee on refinance loans may lead to a hike in refi rates.

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae — government-sponsored mortgage companies that buy most U.S. home loans from lenders — say they need the fee to offset losses related to the pandemic.

That means good refi candidates — those with a solid credit score and at least 20% home equity — need to hurry to lock in the best rates before the new fee officially goes into effect on Dec. 1.

A Freddie Mac study found if you shop around to five lenders, you'll pay an average of $3,000 less over time than someone who seeks out only one mortgage offer.

Those same comparison shopping skills can come in handy when you buy or renew your homeowners insurance, so you’ll get the right coverage at the lowest possible price.

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