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Mortgage Rates Sit Still In The First Week Of 2024

In the first week of 2024, mortgage rates continued to stick around the mid 6% mark.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.62% as of Jan. 4, a slight increase from the 6.61% rate recorded on Dec. 28, according to Freddie Mac‘s Primary Mortgage Market Survey released on Thursday. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.89% this week, down from 5.93% the prior week. HousingWire’s Mortgage Rates Center showed Optimal Blue’s average 30-year fixed rate on conventional loans at 6.68% on Thursday, up from 6.56% recorded at the same time last week.

“Between late October and mid-December, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage plummeted more than a percentage point,” Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sam Khater said in a statement. “However, since then rates have moved sideways as the market digests incoming economic data.”

Given the expectation of rate cuts this year from the Federal Reserve, Khater expects mortgage rates to continue drifting downward.

“While lower mortgage rates are welcome news, potential homebuyers are still dealing with the dual challenges of low inventory and high home prices that continue to rise,” he added.

One year ago this week, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage stood at 6.48%, while the 15-year rate stood at 5.73%.

Lower rates attract homebuyers back to the market but difficulties persist

According to a survey, 11% of surveyed prospective homebuyers said that they would be able to buy a home if rates went below the 7% threshold. Another 12% of surveyed homebuyers said that rates would need to dip below 6% for them to be able to buy a home. Meanwhile, more than a quarter (28%) said rates would need to dip below 4% to bring them into the market. 

Currently, the typical outstanding mortgage rate is still under 4%. This discrepancy is not creating any incentive for sellers to sell their homes in the current rate environment, according to Economic Research Analyst Hannah Jones. 

However, the cost of buying a home did come down in December, sending an encouraging signal to the market. As per a Redfin study, the median U.S. mortgage payment was $2,361 during the four weeks ending December 31, down $372 (-14%) from October.

According to Bright MLS Chief Economist Lisa Sturtevant, the lack of inventory remains the main issue, keeping home prices elevated.

“Young buyers are having to delay buying a home as it takes them longer to save for a down payment and they often have to make offers on multiple homes before they are successful,” Sturtevant said. “Many first-time homebuyers have been priced out of the market altogether.”

Sturtevant expects the lack of inventory to remain a challenge this year even as mortgage rates fall.

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