Mortgage rates carved out another record low this week for the 11th time this year, according to Freddie Mac, a government-sponsored agency that backs millions of mortgages.
The rate on the 30-year-fixed mortgage fell to 2.80%, down from 2.81% last week, which was the previous low on records going back to 1971.
But the historic rate could be out of reach for homeowners and buyers because of stricter lending standards.
“FHA loans, which focus on lower credit borrowers have increased their minimum credit thresholds from 580 to mid 600s at many lenders in anticipation of a more challenging economic environment ahead,” said Mike Tassone, co-founder and COO of Own Up, a mortgage comparison company. “In addition, many lenders are adding processes to verify and re-verify that income and employment have not been impacted by COVID-19.”
Still tough to refinance or buy
The low rate could allow 18.5 million homeowners who meet broad-based underwriting criteria to reduce their existing mortgage rate by three-quarters of a point, translating to an average monthly savings of $304, according to data and analytics firm Black Knight.
But as jobless claims continue apace at an elevated level, lenders are implementing stricter lending requirements for those looking to refinance. Borrowers who have already requested a forbearance on a loan due to the pandemic also may be disqualified from refinancing.
“[Lenders] are concerned that the new loan will immediately enter forbearance as well,” Tassone said. “Lending standards ebb and flow based on market conditions and if job prospects worsen or the country enters another lockdown that reduces income/employment, we can expect to see further tightening.”
Homebuyers face the double-whammy of more stringent mortgage standards and a lack of inventory on the market.
“The number of available homes for sale declined 38% last week, compared with a year ago,” said George Raitu, senior economist at Realtor.com, a real estate listing site, “as the number of buyers in the market remains unseasonably high.”