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January 25, 2019

Will Lower Mortgage Rates Escalate Sales Gains?

The real estate industry will soon see what kind of impact weeks of declining mortgage rates have had on home sales. Will it provide the boost some experts are predicting?

Since early November, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has fallen nearly half a percentage point, from 4.94 percent to 4.45 percent, where it stood at the end of this week. This could provide an important incentive for potential home buyers to make a move. The 30-year rate, which didn’t budge in the latest week of reporting, was on a downward trend for six consecutive weeks prior. Existing-home sales in November were already bouncing back from unusually low volume in the summer months, gaining 1.9 percent month over month, due largely to stability in the overall economy, according to data from the National Association of REALTORS®. But when NAR’s data for December existing-home sales is released Tuesday, it may reveal whether lower mortgage rates have escalated sales gains.

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun told Yahoo! Finance on Thursday that he expects recent declines in mortgage rates to keep home sales on an upward track—possibly leading to an additional 200,000 transactions this year. “Buyers will want to take advantage of the lower rates,” Yun says. “This additional demand will help absorb inventory. Both home prices and home sales will be lifted.”

Though rates were flat in the latest week, due largely to weaker manufacturing data and a prediction that the Federal Reserve will leave its benchmark interest rate alone for now, other industry experts echo Yun’s positive outlook. “Interest rate-sensitive sectors of the economy—such as consumer mortgage demand and homebuilder construction sentiment—are on the mend, which indicates that lower interest rates are beginning to have a positive impact on some segments of the economy,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

Freddie Mac reports the following national averages with mortgage rates for the week ending Jan. 17:

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.45 percent, with an average 0.4 point, unchanged from last week’s average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.04 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.88 percent, with an average 0.4 point, dropping from last week’s 3.89 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 3.49 percent.
  • 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs): averaged 3.87 percent, with an average 0.3 point, rising slightly from last week’s 3.83 percent average. A year ago, 5-year ARMs averaged 3.46 percent.

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