Mortgage rates reached an average of 5.11% this week, according to Freddie Mac — a 12-year high. While high rates may make for a slightly less fierce buying season this year, the market remains difficult to navigate, particularly for first-time homebuyers and other cash-strapped buyers.
If you’re getting ready to buy a home, it might be a good time to start the process and lock in a rate. The Federal Reserve plans to increase the federal funds rate several more times this year, which will likely push mortgage rates up.
“With such fluctuation happening daily, what you will lose usually will be a lot more than what you can gain by not securing your interest rate,” says Ralph DiBugnara, president of Home Qualified and senior vice president of Cardinal Financial.
Are mortgage rates going up?
Mortgage rates started ticking up from historic lows in the second half of 2021, and will likely continue to increase throughout 2022.
In March, the Consumer Price Index reached an annual rate of 8.5%, the fastest rate of inflation since 1981. The Federal Reserve has been working to get inflation under control, and plans to increase the federal funds target rate six more times this year, following a 0.25% increase at its March meeting.
Though not directly tied to the federal funds rate, mortgage rates are often pushed up as a result of Fed rate hikes. As the central bank continues to tighten monetary policy to lower inflation, it’s likely that mortgage rates will remain elevated.
What do high rates mean for the housing market?
When mortgage rates go up, home shoppers’ buying power decreases, as more of their anticipated housing budget has to go toward paying interest. If rates get high enough, buyers can get priced out of the market completely, which cools demand and puts downward pressure on home price growth.
However, that doesn’t mean home prices will fall — in fact, they’re expected to rise even more this year, just at a slower pace than what we’ve seen in the past couple years.
Even though high rates slow demand, low inventory will keep pushing prices up, says DiBugnara.
“There’s such a shortage that even if 50% of the people stop looking today, you would still have a high demand,” he says. “So I just think that because of that demand, you’re going to see prices rise for at least another 18 to 24 months.”
What is a good mortgage rate?
It can be hard to know if a lender is offering you a good rate, which is why it’s so important to get preapproved with multiple mortgage lenders and compare each offer. Apply for preapproval with at least two or three lenders.
Your rate isn’t the only thing that matters. Be sure to compare both what your monthly costs would be as well as your upfront costs, including any lender fees.
Even though mortgage rates are heavily influenced by economic factors that are out of your control, there are some things you can do to help ensure you get a good rate:
- Consider fixed vs. adjustable rates. You may be able to get a lower introductory rate with an adjustable-rate mortgage, which can be good if you plan to move before the intro period ends. But a fixed rate could be better if you’re buying a forever home because you won’t risk your rate going up later. Look at the rates your lender offers and weigh your options.
- Look at your finances. The stronger your financial situation, the lower your mortgage rate should be. Look for ways to boost your credit score or lower your debt-to-income ratio, if necessary. Saving for a higher down payment also helps.
- Choose the right lender. Each lender charges different mortgage rates. Picking the right one for your financial situation will help you land a good rate.