Mortgage Rates Creep Up Again, but They're Still Close to All-Time Lows

Doug Whiteman
Mortgage Rates Creep Up Again, but They're Still Close to All-Time Lows

Mortgage rates have ticked up for the second week in a row, but don't be too concerned because you're still likely to find that mortgage rates in your area are pretty close to the best ever seen.

Rates remain just little bit above record-low territory, a popular survey shows.

If you're in the market for a home or refi and you spot a rate you like, consider whether you should lock it, so it won't get away.

Mortgage rates hover near record lows

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Mortgage rates are still near all-time lows.

The benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage rate has inched up again — to an average 3.49% for the week ending Feb. 20, from 3.47% the previous week, mortgage giant Freddie Mac reports. The rates in the survey come with an average 0.7 point.

Rates aren't too far off their all-time low point in the nearly 50-year history of the Freddie Mac survey. In November 2012, 30-year mortgage rates went all the way down to an average 3.31%.

And this month's mortgage rates have been the lowest ever recorded in February, according to a review of Freddie Mac data.

Rates are staying down as investors worry about how bad the coronavirus outbreak could get. They're piling into Treasury bonds for safety, and that's pushing down bond yields (interest).

The yield on 30-year Treasuries just touched a record low, and the 10-year Treasury yield has declined to levels not reached in months. Mortgage rates are low because they typically follow the same course as the interest on 10-year Treasuries.

How low will mortgage rates go?

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Will rates keep spiraling down?

"The low mortgage rate environment continues to spur homebuying activity, with applications to purchase a home up 15% from a year ago," says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

Today's rates are getting the attention of homeowners, too: Lenders are receiving more than two and a half times as many refinance applications as they were a year ago, the Mortgage Bankers Association says.

Rates may sink to new lows before long, but nobody really knows. So don't miss out on an opportunity today because of what might come tomorrow, says Richard Pisnoy, a principal with Silver Fin Capital Group, a residential and commercial mortgage broker in Great Neck, New York. .

"If you can get a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage today under 3.5%, do you really want to wait because you think — without any real accuracy — that rates will go down another eighth of a point or quarter of a point?" Pisnoy says.

"Don’t try to time the market perfectly," he adds. "It is rarely done well."

Other mortgage rates this week

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Other mortgage rates are mixed.

Rates on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages are up slightly at 2.99%, from an average 2.97% last week. Those loans are a popular refinancing option.

A year ago, the typical 15-year mortgage rate was 3.78%, Freddie Mac says.

Rates on 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgages have fallen for the second straight week. Those "ARMs" are fixed for five years and then can adjust up or down every year that follows.

Right now, ARMs are being offered at an average initial rate of 3.25%, down from 3.28% last week. One year ago at this time, the starter rates on ARMs were at a stiffer 3.84%, on average.