Mortgage rates have risen steadily since the presidential election but have pulled back in recent weeks and are predicted to increase slightly this year.
Tied to the 10-year Treasury note, mortgage rates are estimated to fluctuate between 4% to 4.5% in 2017, but could briefly decline to less than 4% in the "event of a market sell-off or economic stumble," said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate, a New York-based financial content company.
A survey conducted by RateWatch found that 44% of the 400 financial institutions polled said it is somewhat likely that consumers will want to lock in mortgage rates, which will cause a boom in mortgage lending. RateWatch, a Fort Atkinson, Wis.-based premier banking data and analytics service owned by TheStreet, Inc., surveyed the majority of banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions in the U.S. between December 16 and December 29, 2016 on how the Donald Trump presidency will affect the banking industry. The survey found that 39.43% said it is unlikely to increase mortgage lending while 12.29% said such an increase is likely, 2.57% said one is very likely and 1.71% said one would be very unlikely.
The economy is predicted to expand in 2017, and as workers are finally experiencing pay increases, the number of home sales should also rise this year.
"People who are working and receiving a pay increase will buy a house whether mortgage rates are 4% or 4.5%," he said. "They may buy a different house, but they will still buy a house," he said.
The uptick in mortgage rates will continue in 2017, but less volatility is expected to occur. Although rates at the beginning of the year were more volatile, at one point they also dipped under the level at the end of December, said Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for Realtor.com, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based real estate company.
"We've seen rates move up and down in the first few weeks of the year," he said. "I would expect there to be up days and down days, but generally the rates will be going sideways until we start to see clear evidence of improving economic growth and inflation."
Throughout 2017, mortgage rates will increase about 40 to 50 basis points and the 30-year rate would reach about 4.60%, Smoke said.
"I've seen forecasts from 4.25 to 5.0%, so there is quite a range of possibilities," he said.
One key issue which remains is how fast the rates will rise, which could affect some potential home buyers.
"The rate increases would be a result of continued growth in the economy leading to increasing inflation," Smoke said.
Interest rates "tend to move in advance" of the actions of the Federal Reserve, which is meeting Wednesday and Thursday, but is not expected to raise rates, he said. While the market is expecting three rate hikes in 2017, the first move is not predicted to occur until March.
"Commentary from the Federal Reserve will also influence the market," Smoke said. "The Fed sets short-term rates, not long-term rates. But, long-term rates will likely move up in advance of any Fed moves with clear signs of higher inflation. Although long term rates are also impacted by global money markets, and as long as Asia and Europe continue to see negative rates, there is a limit to just how much high long- term rates will go."
By the end of the first quarter, rates could move to 4.2% to 4.3%, which is not likely to affect purchasers, but could dampen the enthusiasm of some owners who want to refinance their mortgages, said Jonathan Corr, CEO of Ellie Mae, a Pleasanton, Calif.-based residential mortgage software provider. Mortgage rates could increase to 4.3% to 4.5% during the year if the market believes the economy is showing indications there is improvement.
Increased interest rate volatility in 2017 could occur, said David Reiss, a law professor at the Brooklyn Law School in New York. The Trump administration has been sending out mixed signals which may result in bond investors and lenders to change their outlook more frequently than in the past.
"Borrowers should focus on locking in attractive interest rates quickly and working closely with their lender to ensure that the loan closes before the interest rate lock expires," he said. "Trump has not set forth a clear plan as to how he will achieve those goals and Congress has not signaled that it is fully on board with them. This leaves investors less confident that Trump will make good on those positions, particularly in the short-term."