Long-term U.S. mortgage rates jumped this week to their highest level in nearly four years, a sign that the prospect of higher inflation is steadily increasing the cost of borrowing to buy a home. That did not strike fear into the hearts of several leading Sarasota-Manatee brokers and Realtors.
“We have been anticipating rate increases for some time, so this doesn’t come as a big surprise," said Drayton Saunders, president of Michael Saunders & Co. "Rate increases do slightly affect what a borrower might qualify for, or increase their monthly payment by a few dollars, but we are still in a world of historically low rates."
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages rose to 4.38 percent this week, up from 4.32 percent last week and the highest since April 2014. The rate on 15-year, fixed-rate loans rose to 3.84 percent from 3.77 percent last week.
"We've seen some of the lowest mortgage rates in generations, several generations," said Greg Owens, broker/operating partner of TeamWorks with Keller Williams On the Water and president of the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee. "If it jumped to 7 or 8 percent, we might see an impact."
Recent wage gains and rising prices are stoking concerns about inflation picking up, which has caused investors to seek higher interest rates. Mortgage rates are closely aligned with the yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes, which has climbed above 2.90 percent from 2.78 percent just two weeks ago.
The low mortgage rates had eased some of the price pressures facing would-be homebuyers. The shrinking inventory of sales listings has caused prices to increase at roughly double the gains in average hourly earnings, making it harder to save for a down payment and purchase a home.
"Our team at MSC Mortgage will continue to prepare our customers and stay on top of the small changes expected over the coming 12 to 18 months,” Saunders said. "We have been working with our team at MSC Mortgage to educate our customers and agents alike on the advantages to locking rates at time of loan application.
"We will watch it carefully, but with nearly 60 percent of our sales still done in cash, we aren’t as sensitive to the situation as other markets may be."
Homebuyers had the benefit of average 30-year mortgages that were 3.78 percent in September. If mortgage rates keep rising quickly, it could limit what people can afford to pay and cause demand for housing to fall.