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Stormy Spring Report: Home Loan Interest Rates Surpass 7 Percent


Average long-term mortgage rates inched above 7 percent nationwide for the first time this year, reported Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey on April 18.

Benchmark 30-year fixed-rate home loan rates hit 7.10 percent, up from 6.88 percent a week earlier. That’s its highest level since October 26, 2023, when 30-year fixed loans hit 7.79 percent. A year ago, 30-year fixed mortgage rates averaged a more affordable 6.39 percent.







“The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage surpassed 7 percent for the first time this year,” said Sam Khater (left), Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist. “As rates trend higher, potential home buyers are deciding whether to buy before rates rise even more or hold off in hopes of decreases later in the year.”






Interest charges on 15-year fixed loans on April 18 averaged 6.39 percent, up from 6.16 percent a week earlier. A year ago, 15-year fixed mortgages averaged 5.76 percent.


Khater noted that home purchase applications rose modestly the week before, but “it remains unclear how many home buyers can withstand increasing rates in the future.”


The Freddie Mac survey is focused on conventional, conforming, fully amortizing home purchase loans for borrowers who place a down payment of 20 percent and have an excellent credit score of 740 or higher.


The truth is home buyers in Chicago and across the nation really are starting to get rate-shy. Sales of existing homes in the United States fell 4.3 percent in March to a seasonally adjusted 4.19 million, reported the National Association of Realtors (NAR). That’s the first monthly decline in sales since December 2023, and follows a nearly 10 percent monthly sales jump nationwide in February.




“Home sales essentially remain stuck because mortgage rates have been stable and inventory is not really rising,” said Laurence Yun (right), NAR’s Chief Economist.


Unfortunately, Yun predicted that mortgage rates are likely to rise above 7 percent in the coming weeks. Early in 2024, Yun had predicted that 30-year fixed loan rates would average 6.3 percent by the fourth quarter of this year.





The interest rate rise is a direct result of the Federal Reserve’s aggressive interest rate hikes intended to tame soaring inflation numbers not seen in 40 years.


The Fed has raised its key benchmark lending rate to a range of 5.25 to 5.50 percent, the highest level since 2007. Based on moves by the Fed, mortgage analysts say 30-year fixed home loans could reach – or surpass – the 8 percent level in the near future. Home loan rates have not hit the lofty 8 percent level since August 11, 2000, more than 23 years ago.


Searching for a better deal, some borrowers are beginning to flock to riskier adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM), lenders say.



“This week we have issued 30-year loan commitments with rates as high as 7.5 percent, depending on down payments and borrower credit scores,” said Jeremy Rose (left), Chicago-based loan consultant for Loan Depot, one of the largest lenders in the nation. “Mortgage interest rates may have gradually declined over the past two decades, but home prices have tripled.”






Today, the buyer of a $400,000 home with a credit score of 740, who places a 25 percent down payment and takes out a $300,000 mortgage for 30 years at Loan Depot, would pay a rate of 7.5 percent. If the buyer is willing to pay a 1 percent discount point, or a loan fee of $3,000, the interest rate would drop to 7.125 percent.




“The most motivated buyers will accept the current level of mortgage rates and make offers when they find a place that’s suitable,” said Holden Lewis (right), a home and mortgage expert at Nerd Wallet. “High mortgage rates aren’t holding buyers back as much as lack of inventory and high prices.”








“If you’re always waiting for the perfect market conditions to arise, you could end up missing out on a lot of great opportunities,” warned Jacob Channel, Senior Economist at Lending Tree.


Mortgage rate history


Thirty-year fixed-mortgage interest rates ended 2020 at a rock-bottom 2.65 percent – the lowest level in the Freddie Mac survey history, which began in 1971.


Home loan rates set new record lows an amazing 16 times in 2020, and tens of thousands of homeowners refinanced.


Archives of the now-defunct Federal Housing Finance Board show long-term mortgage rates in the 1960s were not much higher than the Great Depression, when lenders were charging 5 percent on five-year balloon loans.


Nearly six decades ago, between 1963 and 1965, you could get a mortgage at 5.81 to 5.94 percent. Between 1971 and 1977, the now-defunct Illinois Usury Law held rates in the 7.6-to-9 percent range.



In the early 1980s, runaway inflation caused home loan rates to skyrocket into the stratosphere. According to Freddie Mac, benchmark 30-year mortgage rates peaked at a jaw-dropping 18.45 percent in October 1981 during that Great Recession.


Rates finally fell below 10 percent in April 1986, and then bounced in the 9-to-10 percent range during the balance of the 1980s. Twenty-three years ago, in August 2000, when some of today’s Millennial borrowers were still in diapers, lenders were quoting 8.04 percent.


(Left) October 1981 issue of Inc. magazine



Between 2002 and 2011, rates bounced in the 4-to-6 percent range. They inched into the 3-to-4 percent range until 2020, when they fell into the rock-bottom 2 percent bracket.


Good luck, loan hunters!


Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. Visit www.escapingcondojail.com.

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Steve Sanders, “Your Money Matters” WGN TV, December 22, 2014

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