(KWTX) The average long-term U.S. mortgage rate topped 7% for the first time in more than two decades this week, a result of the Federal Reserve’s aggressive rate hikes intended to tame the nation’s stubbornly high inflation.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average on the key 30-year rate jumped to 7.08% from 6.94% last week. Last year at this time, rates on a 30-year mortgage averaged 3.14%.
Higher mortgage rates reduce homebuyers’ purchasing power, resulting in fewer people being able to afford to buy a home at a time when home prices continue to climb, albeit more slowly than earlier this year. The combination of higher rates and home prices means a typical mortgage payment for a homebuyer is up hundreds of dollars compared to what it was earlier this year.
“We’re really viewing this as a spike in mortgage rates that is pretty dramatically impacting affordability in the market, really sharply curtailing demand,” said Mike Fratantoni, chief economist at the Mortgage Bankers Association.
The last time the average rate was above 7% was April 2002, a time when the U.S. was still reeling from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but six years away from the 2008 housing market collapse that triggered the Great Recession.
Many potential homebuyers have moved to the sidelines as mortgage rates have more than doubled this year, a trend that’s knocked the once red-hot housing market into a slump.
Sales of existing homes have declined for eight straight months as borrowing costs have become too high a hurdle for many Americans already paying more for food, gas and other necessities. Meanwhile, some homeowners have held off putting their homes on the market because they don’t want to jump into a higher rate on their next mortgage.
In effort to tamp down inflation, which is the highest in four decades, the Fed has raised its key benchmark lending rate five times this year, including three consecutive 0.75 percentage point increases that have brought its key short-term borrowing rate to a range of 3% to 3.25%, the highest level since 2008. At their last meeting in late September, Fed officials projected that by early next year they would raise their key rate to roughly 4.5%.