This Day On The Street
Continue to site
ADVERTISEMENT
This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here

It Looks Like Last Call for Sub-5% Mortgages

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Last year's 3.5% mortgage rates are long gone -- and experts say consumers who hold off buying or refinancing homes in hopes that sub-4% interest levels will return could miss out on today's sub-5% rates, too.

"We think 3.5% rates are in the rearview mirror now," says Mike Fratantoni, chief economist at the Mortgage Bankers Association. "It's highly unlikely that we're going to get back to those levels again."

Benchmark U.S. mortgage rates hit a record-low of around 3.5% in late 2012 and early 2013 as the Federal Reserve's Quantitative Easing III program helped push long-term interest rates into the cellar. Under QE3, the central bank had been buying $85 billion of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities each month in a bid to drive rates on mortgages and other long-term debt down.

But mortgage rates shot up to around 4.4% last summer after the Fed hinted in May at plans to begin winding QE3 down.

Must Read: Many Boomers Think Obamacare Will Pay for Private Nursing Home Room

Now, market watchers expect QE3's phaseout and the strengthening U.S. economy's increased inflation risks to push mortgage rates to 5% or higher by year's end.

Fratantoni predicts rates will hit 5% by summer and 5.3% by Dec. 31.

"The U.S. economy is growing again, the Fed is beginning to back off of its very-aggressive policy to lower rates and we have [increasing federal budget-deficit] pressures," he says. "Given all of that, rates are much more likely to go up than down from here."

Market tracker Zillow likewise foresees 5% mortgage rates later this year, but economic research director Svenja Gudell says interest levels should rise slowly enough to give consumers plenty of time to buy or refinance places first.

"I don't think there's the need to rush out and buy a house this very second," she says. "But I'd recommend locking in a mortgage below 5%, because I expect rates to continue rising."

On the plus side, Gudell believes lenders will have to ease today's relatively tight lending standards to keep their home-loan operations humming. After all, she says, higher interest rates typically reduce consumer demand for mortgages.

"I think we'll see banks be more generous about extending credit to people who perhaps would have had a trouble getting mortgages in 2013," the expert says.

For instance, Gudell predicts lenders will lower the FICO score required for the best home-loan rates to around 710 from today's approximately 740.

But Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, says consumers shouldn't expect sub-4% mortgage rates to return any time soon unless a "major shock" throws the economy back into recession.

"I think that if people are hoping for some temporary dip in rates, they'll be disappointed," says Yun, who forecasts 5.3% rates by late 2014. "I realize that many people have seen colleagues and friends lock in mortgages at record-low rates and are jealous. But for now, those rates are history."

Check Out Our Best Services for Investors

Action Alerts PLUS

Portfolio Manager Jim Cramer and Director of Research Jack Mohr reveal their investment tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
Quant Ratings

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
Stocks Under $10

David Peltier uncovers low dollar stocks with serious upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
14-Days Free
Only $9.95
14-Days Free
Dividend Stock Advisor

David Peltier identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Trifecta Stocks

Every recommendation goes through 3 layers of intense scrutiny—quantitative, fundamental and technical analysis—to maximize profit potential and minimize risk.

Product Features:
  • Model Portfolio
  • Intra Day Trade alerts
  • Access to Quant Ratings
Options Profits

Our options trading pros provide over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • Actionable options commentary and news
  • Real-time trading community
SYM TRADE IT LAST %CHG
AAPL $123.11 0.28%
FB $95.65 1.60%
GOOG $628.71 0.23%
TSLA $265.69 5.00%
YHOO $37.57 -0.70%

Markets

Chart of I:DJI
DOW 17,653.98 +23.71 0.13%
S&P 500 2,093.25 +25.61 1.24%
NASDAQ 5,089.2060 +49.43 0.98%

Free Reports

Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs