After months of apparent indecisiveness, mortgages rates seem to have decided on a direction and are heading toward it.
Unfortunately that direction is up!
Both of the mortgage market surveys we track reported rates at their highest levels since mid-2002 and in one case since 2001.
Freddie Mac's Weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey states that the average
rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage during the week ended March 9 was 6.37,
up 13 basis points from the previous week. Fees and points were unchanged at
0.6. This was the highest interest rate recorded by the survey since July, 2002
when rates were 6.49 percent.
The 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 6.0 percent compared to 5.89 the previous week. The last time rates were higher than this was June 2002 when the average for the month was 6.11. Fees last week were unchanged at 0.6.
The 1-year ARM reached levels that have not been seen since September of 2001 when the average was 5.57 percent. Last week's rate was 5.45 percent with fees unchanged at 0.8.
The 5/1-year ARM has a short history but the rate last week, 6.03 percent, was the highest since Freddie Mac began tracking the product in January of last year. The rate was up six basis points from the previous week and fees and points were also up 0.1 to 0.7.
The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) released its Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending March 10 on Wednesday. This survey also reported a short term record for the 30-year fixed rate mortgage. The average rate for an 80 percent loan-to-value loan last week was 6.42 percent, up from 6.31 percent for the week ended March 3. This is the highest that the survey has recorded since July 5, 2002 when the average rate was 6.46 percent. Points, including the origination fee did decline from 1.22 to 1.14 from the previous week.
The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed rate mortgages increased from 5.97 percent to 6.06 percent with points dropping from 1.22 to 1.19. MBA did not provide historical information for this loan product.
The rate for a 1-year ARM, however, did drop slightly, from 5.69 to 5.64 percent with points remaining steady at 0.96.
Mortgage loan activity also continued to slow. The Market Composite Index decreased a scant 0.2 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier and was up 0.2 percent on an unadjusted basis but it was down sharply - 20.4 percent - from the same week in 2005.
Refinancing as a share of all mortgage activity decreased to 37.7 percent from 38.5 percent the prior week but adjustable rate mortgages picked up a bit and represented 28.8 percent of all mortgage applications compared to 27.9 percent a week earlier.
To put these new "record rates" in perspective, however, they are not really dramatically higher than in 2004 and 2005. We went back in the Freddie Mac archives and found the recent historic low rates. In March 2004 the 1-year ARM was at 3.41 percent. In June, 2003 the 30-year fixed was 5.23 and that same month the 15-year was 4.63. Today's rates, even in comparison to the low water marks cited above, still seem pretty reasonable. Especially to those who can remember the late 1970s and early 1980s when rates were in the high teens.
It's all relative!