A few major mortgage rates crept higher over the past week. As interest rates surge, it's getting more expensive to buy a house.
Katherine Watt Contributor
Katherine Watt is a CNET Money writer focusing on mortgages, home equity and banking. She previously wrote about personal finance for NextAdvisor. Based in New York, Katherine graduated summa cum laude from Colgate University with a bachelor's degree in English literature.
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A handful of closely followed mortgage rates increased over the last seven days. The average 15-year fixed and 30-year fixed mortgage rates both climbed higher. The average rate of the most common type of variable-rate mortgage, the 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage, also advanced.
On the heels of cooling inflation, the Federal Reserve announced on May 3 a 25-basis-point increase to its benchmark short-term interest rate. The Fed's May meeting marks what could be the last increase we see for the time being. The central bank has signaled that it may soon be time to pause on rate hikes. Depending on incoming inflation data, the next step would be to hold rates where they are for an extended period of time in order to bring inflation down to its 2% target.
As long as inflation continues to trend downward, experts say a pause in rate hikes from the Fed could bring some stability to today's volatile mortgage rate market.
Mortgages hit a 20-year high in late 2022, but now the macroeconomic environment is changing again. Rates dipped significantly in January before climbing back up in February. Throughout March and April, rates fluctuated in the 6% range.
"Ultimately, more certainty about the Fed's actions will help to smooth out some of the volatility we have seen with mortgage rates," says Odeta Kushi, deputy chief economist at First American Financial Corporation.
While rates don't directly track changes to the federal funds rate, they do respond to inflation. Overall, inflation remains high but has been slowly but consistently falling every month since it peaked in June 2022.
After raising rates dramatically in 2022, the Fed opted for smaller, 25-basis-point rate increases in its first three meetings of 2023. The decision to hike by 0.25% on May 3 suggests that inflation is cooling and the central bank may soon be able to pause its rate hiking regime. While the central bank is unlikely to cut rates any time soon, positive signaling from the Fed and cooling inflation may ease some of the upward pressure on mortgage rates.
"If inflation keeps coming down, that will be the biggest driver, outside of the Fed, that's really going to help bring rates down to a better level and improve affordability for home buyers," says Scott Haymore, head of capital markets and mortgage pricing at TD Bank.
However, mortgage rates remain well above where they were a year ago. Fewer buyers are willing to jump into the housing market, driving demand down and causing home prices in some regions to ease, but that's only part of the home affordability equation.
"Even though home prices in many parts of the country have fallen since the start of the year, high rates make buying prohibitively expensive for many," says Jacob Channel, senior economist at loan marketplace LendingTree. It's still difficult for many buyers, particularly those looking for their first home, to afford a monthly payment.
What does this mean for homebuyers this year? Mortgage rates are likely to decrease slightly in 2023, although they're highly unlikely to return to the rock-bottom levels of 2020 and 2021. However, rate volatility may continue for some time. "Expect mortgage rates to yo-yo up and down in the first half of the year, at least until there is a consensus about when the Fed will conclude raising interest rates," says Greg McBride, CFA and chief financial analyst at Bankrate. (Like CNET Money, Bankrate is owned by Red Ventures.) McBride expects rates to fall more consistently as the year progresses. "Thirty-year fixed mortgage rates will end the year near 5.25%," he predicts.
Rather than worrying about market mortgage rates, homebuyers should focus on what they can control: getting the best rate they can for their situation.
"The most important thing is that they find the right home. The second most important thing is obviously to find the most efficient way to finance it," says Melissa Cohn, regional vice president of William Raveis Mortgage.
Take steps to improve your credit score and save for a down payment to increase your odds of qualifying for the lowest rate available. Also, be sure to compare the rates and fees from multiple lenders to get the best deal. Looking at the annual percentage rate, or APR, will show you the total cost of borrowing and help you compare apples to apples.
30-year fixed-rate mortgages
The average 30-year fixed mortgage interest rate is 7.17%, which is an increase of 14 basis points from seven days ago. (A basis point is equivalent to 0.01%.) The most common loan term is a 30-year fixed mortgage. A 30-year fixed rate mortgage will usually have a lower monthly payment than a 15-year one -- but often a higher interest rate. You won't be able to pay off your house as quickly and you'll pay more interest over time, but a 30-year fixed mortgage is a good option if you're looking to minimize your monthly payment.
15-year fixed-rate mortgages
The average rate for a 15-year, fixed mortgage is 6.61%, which is an increase of 16 basis points compared to a week ago. Compared to a 30-year fixed mortgage, a 15-year fixed mortgage with the same loan value and interest rate will have a higher monthly payment. However, as long as you can afford the monthly payments, there are several benefits to a 15-year loan. These include typically being able to get a lower interest rate, paying off your mortgage sooner, and paying less total interest in the long run.
5/1 adjustable-rate mortgages
A 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage has an average rate of 6.00%, a rise of 13 basis points compared to a week ago. You'll typically get a lower interest rate (compared to a 30-year fixed mortgage) with a 5/1 ARM in the first five years of the mortgage. However, changes in the market might cause your interest rate to increase after that time, as detailed in the terms of your loan. For borrowers who plan to sell or refinance their house before the rate changes, an adjustable-rate mortgage could be a good option. If not, changes in the market might significantly increase your interest rate.
Mortgage rate trends
Mortgage rates were historically low throughout most of 2020 and 2021 but increased steadily throughout 2022. Now, mortgage rates are roughly twice what they were a year ago, pushed up by persistently high inflation. That high inflation prompted the Fed to raise its target federal funds rate seven times in 2022. By raising rates, the Fed makes it more expensive to borrow money and more appealing to keep money in savings, suppressing demand for goods and services.
Mortgage interest rates don't move in lockstep with the Fed's actions in the same way that, say, rates for a home equity line of credit do. But they do respond to inflation. As a result, cooling inflation data and positive signals from the Fed will influence mortgage rate movement more than the most recent 25-basis-point rate hike.
We use information collected by Bankrate to track rate changes over time. This table summarizes the average rates offered by lenders across the country:
Current average mortgage interest rates
|Loan type||Interest rate||A week ago||Change|
|30-year fixed rate||7.17%||7.03%||+0.14|
|15-year fixed rate||6.61%||6.45%||+0.16|
|30-year jumbo mortgage rate||7.18%||7.06%||+0.12|
|30-year mortgage refinance rate||7.22%||7.07%||+0.15|
Rates as of May 30, 2023.
How to find personalized mortgage rates
You can get a personalized mortgage rate by connecting with your local mortgage broker or using an online calculator. When researching home mortgage rates, take into account your goals and current finances.
A range of factors -- including your down payment, credit score, loan-to-value ratio and debt-to-income ratio -- will all affect your mortgage interest rate. Generally, you want a good credit score, a larger down payment, a lower DTI and a lower LTV to get a lower interest rate.
The interest rate isn't the only factor that affects the cost of your home. Be sure to also consider additional factors such as fees, closing costs, taxes and discount points. Be sure to speak with multiple lenders -- for example, local and national banks, credit unions and online lenders -- and comparison-shop to find the best loan for you.
What's the best loan term?
One important thing to keep in mind when choosing a mortgage is the loan term, or payment schedule. The mortgage terms most commonly offered are 15 years and 30 years, although you can also find 10-, 20- and 40-year mortgages. Mortgages are further divided into fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages. For fixed-rate mortgages, interest rates are the same for the life of the loan. Unlike a fixed-rate mortgage, the interest rates for an adjustable-rate mortgage are only fixed for a certain amount of time (commonly five, seven or 10 years). After that, the rate fluctuates annually based on the current interest rate in the market.
One important factor to think about when choosing between a fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgage is the length of time you plan on living in your house. For those who plan on living long-term in a new house, fixed-rate mortgages may be the better option. Fixed-rate mortgages offer greater stability over time compared to adjustable-rate mortgages, but adjustable-rate mortgages may offer lower interest rates upfront. However, you may get a better deal with an adjustable-rate mortgage if you only have plans to keep your house for a couple years. There is no best loan term as a rule of thumb; it all depends on your goals and your current financial situation. It's important to do your research and know what's most important to you when choosing a mortgage.
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|Jumbo 15-Year Fixed||6.52%||6.52%|
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