After nearly a month at a record low, 30-year fixed mortgage rates inched upward as signs of a rebounding housing market dominate the news.
While the rise was slight, the increase is being taken as an indication that the housing market may be on an upward swing. Freddie Mac reports that the 30-year fixed loan rate increased from 3.87% last week to 3.95%. Rates on the 15-year fixed loan only eked upward from 3.16% last week to 3.19% today.
Fueling the positive attitude toward the housing market is a report that the percentage of borrowers who are delinquent in their loans is decreasing and that new home construction is showing signs of life.
Last week the Federal Reserve said that residential mortgage delinquencies dropped in the fourth quarter to an annualized rate of 9.86%. This marks the first quarter that delinquencies have been below 10%.
Michael Shaoul of Oscar Gruss & Son says that signs are pointing toward a slow recovery. “January new home sales data was supportive of the notion that a significant improvement in spring data may be forthcoming,” he says. “Although sales remained sluggish during the winter months there is enough anecdotal evidence out there regarding better traffic (both qualitatively and quantitatively) to suggest that better days lie ahead.”
Rates Are Slowly Climbing
Although rates inched up slightly, buyers can still purchase a home at a historically low rate, coupled with some of the lowest prices in years.
With the market providing positive returns for buyers, Keith Gumbinger of HSH Associates advises borrowers to act soon. He says that slow, steady rate increases may create a more expensive environment for home buying.
While the difference between buying a home today versus last week is nominal, buyers should take note. At the lowest low rate, set three weeks ago compared to today, borrowers should expect to add only $4.50 to every $100,000 in their monthly mortgage payment.
Economists have predicted for years that as the economy strengthens, mortgage rates will increase. However, the Federal Reserve publically pledged to keep rates low for the next three years. "It's premature to make any strong claims right now," Gumbinger says.
Home Prices Continue to Fall
On a national scale, home prices dropped 2.4% in January due to a clogged inventory of distressed or foreclosed properties. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that 35% of home sales in January and 32% in December were comprised of foreclosed or distressed homes, which has lowered property values across the board.
In a note to clients on Wednesday, Michelle Meyer, an economist at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research said, “We think the foreclosure process will accelerate, which will speed up the flow of distressed inventory.”
RealtyTrac, Inc. reports that banks repossessed more than one million homes in the nation this year alone.
Some Areas Seeing Home Price Increases
Although national indicators point to a drop in home prices, some markets are experiencing home price increases. For example, South Florida, one of the hardest hit markets by the housing bust is seeing prices swell instead of deflate.
A trade group that represents Realtors and brokers reported a 13% increase in area home resale prices in January as compared to the year before. The Florida Realtors Association said that if February produces another increase it would mark the first three-month consistent rise in home prices for the Miami-Dade area since February 2007.
Martha Pomares, a Coral Gables real estate agent says that business has picked up thanks to an increase in international interest. “Now, home prices in Miami are significantly rising and sooner than expected, as the Miami real estate market continues to outperform the rest of the nation, mostly due to the strong impact of international buyers.”
John Ryding, an economist at RDQ economics says that numerous factors are pointing toward signs of national recovery. “The rise in existing home sales in recent months adds to the indication from housing starts, building permits, and homebuilder sentiment that the sector has improved modestly since the middle of 2011.”
Area Realtors report that home prices in Broward County rose 7% in January to $177,000. The median price for a condo increased to $74,000. Miami Dade’s median single priced homes came in at $170,000, however the median price for condos in the area jumped 36% to $122,500.
Contrasting what South Florida is experiencing, NAR determined that the national median price for a home in January at $154,700 versus $162,200 in December.