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By Leslie Cook
January 9, 2021
Money; Getty Images

The housing market maintained its 2020 hot streak in the first week of the new year.

Average mortgage rates hit a new record low for the week ending January 7, continuing the downward trend seen through much of last year. Meanwhile, new data showed home prices continued to accelerate and supply reached an all-time low in 2020’s final months. Home loan applications slowed over the holidays, but still eclipsed 2019 levels.

However, there are signs that a slow down could be ahead in 2021, as consumer confidence in the housing market drop significantly last month due to a worsening economy and accelerating pandemic.

Meanwhile, daily mortgage rates hovered around 3% throughout the week.

Today’s Mortgage Rates

The average interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 3.098% on Thursday — down from 3.109% on Wednesday.

Mortgage Rate Chart
Loan type Average Rate
30-Year Fixed Loan 3.098%
15-Year Fixed Loan 2.321%
30-Year FHA Loan 2.964%
30-Year VA Loan 2.994%
30-Year Jumbo Loan 3.741%
Source: Money | Date: Jan. 7, 2021 | Rates assume a credit score of 700

Money’s daily mortgage rates show the average rate offered by over 8,000 lenders across the United States the previous day. They reflect what a typical borrower with a 700 credit score might expect to pay for a home loan right now. The rates assume a 20% down payment and include discount points.

Freddie Mac’s widely quoted Primary Mortgage Market Survey put mortgage rates at 2.65% with 0.7 points paid for the week ending January 7, setting a new record low. That’s 0.02 percentage points below last week. Rates set new record lows 16 times in 2020. This is the first all-time low set in 2021. The mortgage purchaser’s weekly survey reflects borrowers who put 20% down on conforming loans and have excellent credit.

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How do I get the best mortgage rates?

Mortgage rates vary from state-to-state. On Thursday, borrowers in Illinois were quoted the lowest mortgage rates — at 3.018%. People looking for mortgages in Nevada saw the highest average rate at 3.254%.

Nationwide, borrowers with the highest credit scores, 740 and above, were quoted rates averaging 2.875%, while those with credit of 620 or below were shown rates of 4.406%.

You may be able to negotiate a better interest rate if you shop around or if you have other accounts with the lender. (To get started, take a look at Money’s picks for the best mortgage lenders.) Currently, some lenders are hiking up advertised rates to keep demand in check, so you may be offered a lower rate if you reach out directly.

Today’s Mortgage Refinance Rates

Money’s survey also shows that the offered rate for a 30-year refinance for someone with a 740 credit score was 3.194% on Thursday. In January 2020, the average mortgage rate (including fees) was around 3.8%.

Mortgage Refinance Rate Chart
Loan type Average Rate
30-Year Fixed Loan 3.194%
15-Year Fixed Loan 2.587%
30-Year FHA Loan 3.432%
30-Year VA Loan 3.425%
30-Year Jumbo Loan 3.633%
Source: Money | Date: Jan. 7, 2021 | Rates assume a credit score of 740

Real Estate and Mortgage Rate News From This Week

Mortgage Rates Are Still Dropping

The new year is only a week old and we already have a new record-low mortgage rate. The average interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage reached 2.65% in Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Survey for the week ending January 7. Historically low mortgage rates were the norm throughout 2020, with 16 new record-lows during the year. While 2021 is starting on the same path, most industry experts expect rates to start rising slowly during the first half of the year.

Home Prices Continue Rising

November saw the fastest price appreciation since March 2014, as home prices increased by 8.2% year-over-year, according to CoreLogic. Prices also increased by 1.1% over October. Home prices are expected to keep increasing in 2021, although at a slower pace. CoreLogic is forecasting an initial increase of 7.5% during the first half of 2021, then moderating to 2.5% by the end of the year.

Despite low rates, increasing home prices will pose affordability challenges, especially for first-time homebuyers. The largest price growth has occurred among lower-priced homes, where values increased one and half times faster than among higher-priced homes.

Home Loan Applications Ticked Down

The overall volume of mortgage applications decreased by 4.2% for the two-week period ending January 1, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Purchase loan applications were down by just 0.8% as homebuyers took advantage of new record low rates in December. Refinance loan applications were down by 6%. Despite the declines, applications for both loan types were higher than the same period in 2019, with purchase loans up 3% and refi loans doubling year-over-year.

The decline in loan applications was expected as part of the typical holiday season slowdown. The MBA expects application volumes to pick back up in 2021

Meanwhile, the number of borrowers participating in forbearance programs remained fairly steady, with 5.53% of all borrowers, or about 2.7 million homeowners, enrolled in the payment deferral plans. After months of steady exits, the share of loans leaving the forbearance program has hovered around 5.5% for the past two months, likely as a result of the economic slowdown caused by the resurgence of COVID-19.

Housing Inventory Reaches an All-Time Low

The supply shortage keeps getting worse as the number of homes available for sale in December dipped below 700,000 for the first time, according to Realtor.com. There were 449,000 fewer homes on the market than in December 2019, a decrease of almost 40%. Record low mortgage rates in 2020 increased demand for an already thin housing supply. As a result, home prices have grown by double-digits and homes have been selling at a faster pace.

While the number of homes under construction indicates more new homes will come on the market in 2021, high buyer demand in the early part of the year could lead to new lows in supply in the coming months.

Consumer Confidence in the Housing Market Declines

In December, consumer confidence in the housing market reached the lowest level since May of 2020, dropping to 74 points, according to Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index. Year-over-year the index is down 17.7 points, despite low mortgage rates and strong home buyer demand. The decrease comes on the heels of a slowing economy caused by the increase in Coronavirus infections.

The number of consumers who feel it is a good time to buy decreased from 57% to 52% while those who feel it is a bad time to buy increased from 35% to 39%.

At the same time, and perhaps more worrying, the number of consumers who believe it is a good time to sell dropped from 59% to 50%, while the number of people who feel it is a bad time to sell increased from 33% to 42%. Lower consumer confidence in selling homes can lead some homeowners to postpone putting houses on the market, making the housing supply shortage even worse.

Bottom line:

9 Steps to Take Now That Will Prepare You for Buying a Home in 2021

Money’s 2021 Real Estate Outlook: What to Expect for Mortgage Rates, Home Prices and More

Current Mortgage Rates: 30-Year Mortgage Rates Hit a New Low

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