The warm feel of December is back--not the holidays, but mortgage rates. The lows that screamed from the headlines in December 2010 are back, just in time for the most “wonderful time of the year”--home buying season.
Freddie Mac reports that the 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell to 4.61% down from 4.63%. 15-year fixed mortgage rates are down to 3.80%, the lowest since last November.
The recent decline should ignite the market, however the National Association of Realtors (NAR) still isn’t seeing the kind of purchase application numbers to match the incredible deals.
The group says that fewer people purchased existing homes in April and sales dropped to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.05 million homes. NAR considers 6 million home sales per year to be a vibrant market.
According to Rich Workman of Workman Mortgage (Melbourne, FL), consumers may be waiting for even lower rates before making a move. "If it's purely a rate decision, the difference needs to be one and a half percentage points.”
Economists warn that consumers may not see additional savings with a point or more from their mortgage rate due to higher closing costs, appraisal fees and title insurance.
Add-on fees, otherwise known as points can certainly make a dent in the borrower’s savings. One point equates to 1% of the total loan amount. In Freddie Mac’s survey a 30-year fixed mortgage loan and a 15-year fixed mortgage loan were 0.7 point.
Yet, Workman says that he is experiencing an increase in mortgage purchase applications in his market.
Mortgage Refinance Market Still Going Strong
Although the purchase market continues to struggle, mortgage refinances are steady. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) refinance activity is at its highest level since December 2010. As rates began to drop, mortgage refinance activity increased by 33% over the past five weeks.
Although mortgage refinance continues to dominate the influx of applications, mortgage experts say we aren’t out of the woods yet. Pava Leyrer, president of Heritage National Mortgage says, "We're not seeing a (refinancing) boom by any means."
Leyrer explains that although rates are low, many borrowers have already refinanced, or may not have enough equity in their homes to take advantage of the enticing rates. Additionally, low credit scores continue to plague the refinance arena.
How to Get the Biggest Bang from Your Rate
All lenders are not offering the same deals, so shopping mortgage companies is the only way to obtain the best offer.
While mortgage rate is king, consider all surrounding factors such as points, costs and service. The mortgage company’s costs should be calculated into the overall mortgage rate in order to gain a true perspective of what you will pay.
Consider all aspects of the mortgage loan:
- Obtain quotes from several mortgage companies to make an informed decision. If you don’t have time to run from mortgage company to mortgage company, consider hiring a mortgage broker. A mortgage broker has access to a deep database of mortgage information, providing him/her with the ability to efficiently identify the best deal.
- Ask for full disclosure on fees and payments. First time homebuyers especially should research and understand the fees associated with mortgage lending, which includes down payment and processing fees. Using a mortgage calculator, compute rate and up front cost information to determine your total savings.
- Explore your mortgage loan options, which includes VA and FHA lending. In some cases, especially for first time homebuyers or those with a low credit score, traditional mortgage lending won’t work. Instead of completely abandoning your dream of home ownership, investigate your options.
- Consider the mortgage company’s level of service. A mortgage company that provides you with open communication, promptly returns phone calls and provides you with a full explanation of disclosures should be considered. Also, ask if the lender sells its loans on the secondary market--some mortgage companies may still sell the loan, but still services it in-house.