Mortgage rates are back above 7% this week.
The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is 7.08% for the second time this year, according to Freddie Mac’s lender survey. This is exactly where the 30-year rate was two weeks ago, before briefly dropping last week. The last time the rate was this high was April 2001.
“As the housing market adjusts to rapidly tightening monetary policy, mortgage rates again surpassed 7%,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist in a statement. “The housing market is the most interest-rate sensitive segment of the economy, and the impact rates have on homebuyers continues to evolve. Home sales have declined significantly and, as we approach year-end, they are not expected to improve.”
In recent months, fast-rising mortgage rates and monthly payments have made affordability a major obstacle to homeownership. According to Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, the median income required to purchase the typical home today has increased to $88,300 — almost $40,000 more than was needed in 2019.
Why mortgage rates are moving higher
Mortgage rates increased in the wake of the latest interest rate hike from the Federal Reserve.
At the end of last week’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting, the Fed announced a fourth consecutive 0.75 percentage point increase to the federal funds rate. The central bank also indicated it plans to continue raising rates for as long necessary to bring down inflation. So far this year, the Fed has increased rates a total of six times, bringing the rate from near zero to 4% over the last nine months.
The federal fund rate is the rate banks charge each other for short-term loans. Although it does not directly set mortgage rates, interest rates on all kinds of credit move with the fed funds rate — including mortgages.
There may be some hope that the Fed’s tightening policy may begin to ease up, however.
Earlier Thursday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the Consumer Price Index report for October, which showed inflation increasing less than anticipated last month. At 7.7%, Octobers’ year-over-year price increase was the slowest so far this year. With today’s more positive inflation news, the likelihood of smaller fed funds rate hikes in the future grows.
“Inflation can strongly influence interest rates in ‘normal’ times,” said Matthew Speakman, senior economist at Zillow Home Loans, in a statement. “But the influence of rising consumer prices is particularly acute in today’s climate, as the Fed takes aggressive measures to dampen inflation.”
The Fed uses increases in the fed fund rate as a tool to control inflation, which had been running above 8% since March. Raising rates increases the cost of borrowing. The hope is that higher rates will slow demand to a point where consumer prices begin to fall back to the central bank target of 2%
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