There’s A Sign The Housing Market May Finally Be Thawing

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Will Kessler Contributor
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Applications for mortgages ticked up to a six-week high for the week ending on Nov. 17 in a sign that the housing market might become more accessible to average Americans following rising prices and high mortgage rates, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA).

The number of mortgage applications increased by 3% compared to a week earlier when seasonally adjusted, according to a press release from the MBA. The increase in volume follows a decline in the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, which fell to 7.41% from 7.61% in the same time period. (RELATED: As Inflation Worries Investors, Wall Street Is Buying Up American Soil)

“U.S. bond yields continued to move lower as incoming data signaled a softer economy and more signs of cooling inflation,” Joel Kan, vice president and deputy chief economist at MBA, said in the press release. “Most mortgage rates in our survey decreased, with the 30-year fixed mortgage rate decreasing to 7.41%, the lowest rate in two months. Mortgage applications increased to their highest level in six weeks, but remain at very low levels.”

The number of applications to refinance a mortgage increased 1.6% in the week ending Nov. 17, but still remains well below average due to many homeowners having locked in a lower mortgage when they were beneath their current levels, according to the MBA.

Mortgage rates hit a 23-year high in October, peaking at 7.9%, far higher than the low of 2.65% that was seen in January 2021. Mortgage rates closely follow the yield rate for U.S. Treasury bonds, which nearly exceeded 5% in October but has since receded slightly to 4.42% as of Nov. 20 as economic conditions cool, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Treasury yields and mortgage rates are facing upward pressure from the Federal Reserve following a series of 11 rate hikes that began in March 2022, which has resulted in the federal funds rate being put in a range of 5.25% and 5.50%, a 22-year high. The rate was placed at that level to combat high inflation, which peaked at 9.1% in June 2022 and has remained elevated above the Fed’s 2% target since.

Inflation has also pushed up home prices, which has dampened consumers’ willingness to purchase a home, leading sales to reach a 13-year low in October. Existing home sales declined 4.1% for the month and 14.6% year-over-year, while the price of the average home increased 3.4% for the year to $391,800.

Housing affordability has declined greatly over the last few years, resulting in many Americans being priced out of the housing market entirely. In December 2020, an average American with a median income could afford a 30-year mortgage on a $737,392 home, while that same family can now only afford a mortgage for a $356,273 house as of August 2023.

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