By Jacob Passy
Mortgage rates rose on a weekly basis for the second week in a row, potentially threatening to put a damper on home sales just as the real-estate market’s outlook was brightening.
The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.73% during the week ending Sept. 19, rising 13 basis points from the previous week, Freddie Mac /zigman2/quotes/202741363/delayed FMCC -1.87% reported Thursday . This was only the 11th weekly increase in mortgage rates this year.
The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage increased 12 basis points to an average of 3.21%, according to Freddie Mac. The 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 3.49%, up 13 basis points.
The Federal Reserve, when it cuts interest rates, is adjusting short-term rates. Mortgage rates, on the other hand, roughly track the direction of the 10-year Treasury note /zigman2/quotes/211347051/realtime BX:TMUBMUSD10Y 0.00% .
However, neither the Federal Reserve nor bond markets were the likely culprit behind this week’s increase in mortgages rates. Rather, improving economic data and the higher demand for mortgages, especially to purchase homes, gave lenders room to boost rates.
“While there was initially a slow response to the overall lower mortgage-rate environment this year, it is clear that the housing market is finally improving due to the strong labor market and low mortgage rates,” Freddie Mac chief economist Sam Khater said Thursday.
Whether the good times will continue for the housing market is up for debate. Experts have attributed the healthy pace of home sales in recent weeks to falling mortgage rates.
But if rates continue to rise, as they have these last two weeks, buyers’ appetite for buying a home will diminish. The inventory of homes for sale across most of the country remains extremely tight, pushing prices higher.
That has made it more expensive to buy a home. When affordability constraints are coupled with the potential for an economic slowdown, a less rosy picture emerges for the housing market.