Home buyers again saw mortgage rates rise this week alongside word that the economy is beginning to improve. According to the Wall Street Journal, rates for a 30-year home loan rose above 5 percent for the first time since September, rising to 5.03 percent. Rates for 15-year fixed rate and five and one-year adjustable rate loans also saw a rise in numbers. 15-year fixed rate mortgages climbed from 4.43 percent to 4.46 percent, while five-year adjustable rate loans rose from 4.42 percent to 4.40 percent. The rates for one-year adjustable rate mortgages are at 4.57 percent, up from 4.54 percent a week ago.
While the fact that the Federal Reserve felt confident enough to raise the rates is encouraging, the drop in mortgage applications and refinances put a damper on this news. According to the Washington Post, new home purchases dropped to a 402,000 annual pace, or 3.6 percent, in September. It was the first time since March that new home sales declined from month-to-month. The number of mortgage applications fell 5.2 percent in the third week of October, while lenders saw a 16 percent drop in applications from homeowners looking to refinance.
The news of the decline in mortgage applications for new home purchases is a bit discouraging for the housing industry. The $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers had helped provide an incentive to purchasers and drive new home purchases. However, with the tax credit ending and no definite word yet on an extension combined with the continuing rise in mortgage rates, the numbers may not improve for a while.
Rising home prices may also be playing a part in the declining number of applications. While an increase in home prices does signal growing buyer confidence and an economic upswing, it may be discouraging some buyers from purchasing a new home. Even as economists state they are beginning to see improvement in the economy, the public has not yet tended to agree, and rising home prices are likely to play a contributing factor in the decline of buyers applying for mortgage loans.
The mortgage rates for this week are still significantly below where they were a year ago, and are considered to be very low when compared to longer-term historical numbers. The low mortgage rates are a positive for the housing industry as buyers lock in their loans at lower rates. Unfortunately, with consumer confidence still not lining up with increasing economist confidence, the rise in rates may mean a dip in sales until confidence increases.