The Federal Reserve hiked short-term interest rates Wednesday, in a move largely predicted by economists. So, what does this mean for mortgage rates and buyers?
First off, the Fed does not set mortgage rates. Short-term rates are different from long-term rates. Mortgage rates typically follow long-term bond rates, such as the 10-year U.S. Treasury note. Longer-term rates typically adjust before the Fed makes a move.
Indeed, mortgage rates have risen near to 60 basis points since the presidential election. More than twice the quarter-point increase that the Fed voted on Wednesday.
The Fed announced that it expects to raise short-term rates three times next year by a total of 75 basis points.
“That means rates like we’ve seen for most of the past five years are indeed history,” writes Jonathan Smoke, realtor.com®’s chief economist, in his latest column. Mortgage rates in the 3 percent range are gone.
“Mortgage rates will move higher before the Fed acts again, so if the Fed carries out its three planned hikes in 2017, we could come close to 5 percent on 30-year conforming rates before the end of next year,” Smoke notes.
On Wednesday, the average 30-year conforming rate was just under 4.2 percent.
Smoke believes that rates are more likely to move in the month ahead of each key Fed policy meeting. As such, the important meetings to note are in March, June, September, and December 2017.
How big of an impact could rising rates have in the coming months? A median-priced home would be $978 per month payment at Wednesday’s rate of 4.2 percent (and assuming a 20 percent down payment), realtor.com® notes. Take that rate to 5 percent, the monthly payment jumps up to $1,074, nearly $100 more.
“If you intend to buy next year and finance the purchase with a mortgage, acting sooner rather than later will cost you less,” Smoke says is the message to home buyers.