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Mortgage And Refinance Rates Today, Dec. 17

Today’s mortgage and refinance rates 

Average mortgage rates barely moved yesterday, inching just the tiniest bit higher. So they remain indistinguishable from their recent all-time low.

And mortgage rates might effectively hold steady again today. True, Congress seems to be inching toward a pandemic relief package. But it’s unlikely to be big or helpful enough to move those rates far. So any movement is likely to be too small for anyone to care much.

Find and lock a low rate (Dec 17th, 2020)

Current mortgage and refinance rates 

Program Mortgage Rate APR* Change
Conventional 30 year fixed 2.688% 2.688% Unchanged
Conventional 15 year fixed 2.375% 2.375% Unchanged
Conventional 5 year ARM 3% 2.743% Unchanged
30 year fixed FHA 2.25% 3.226% Unchanged
15 year fixed FHA 2.313% 3.253% Unchanged
5 year ARM FHA 2.5% 3.22% -0.01%
30 year fixed VA 2.125% 2.295% Unchanged
15 year fixed VA 2.063% 2.382% Unchanged
5 year ARM VA 2.5% 2.399% -0.01%
Rates are provided by our partner network, and may not reflect the market. Your rate might be different. Click here for a personalized rate quote. See our rate assumptions here.

Find and lock a low rate (Dec 17th, 2020)


COVID-19 mortgage updates: Mortgage lenders are changing rates and rules due to COVID-19. To see the latest on how coronavirus could impact your home loan, click here.

Should you lock a mortgage rate today?

The chances of serious movements in mortgage rates between now and the New Year seem small. Of course, such risks never disappear completely. But volatility currently looks unlikely.

So, over the next couple of weeks, you’ll probably gain or lose little whether you continue to float your rate or choose to lock it.

Beyond that, I suspect mortgage rates will continue to inch lower for some months. But at a glacial pace and with occasional (probably brief) periods of rises.

So, in the light of this (admittedly speculative) scenario, I’m updating my personal rate lock recommendations:

  • LOCK if closing in 7 days
  • LOCK if closing in 15 days
  • LOCK if closing in 30 days
  • FLOAT if closing in 45 days
  • FLOAT if closing in 60 days

But with so much uncertainty at the moment, your instincts could easily turn out to be as good as mine — or better. So be guided by your gut and your personal tolerance for risk.


Market data affecting today’s mortgage rates 

Here’s the state of play this morning at about 9:50 a.m. (ET). The data, compared with about the same time yesterday morning, were:

  • The yield on 10-year Treasurys fell to 0.90% from 0.93%. (Good for mortgage rates) More than any other market, mortgage rates normally tend to follow these particular Treasury bond yields, though less so recently
  • Major stock indexes were higher on opening. (Bad for mortgage rates.) When investors are buying shares they’re often selling bonds, which pushes prices of those down and increases yields and mortgage rates. The opposite happens when indexes are lower
  • Oil prices were higher at $48.33 from $47.40 a barrel. (Bad for mortgage rates* because energy prices play a large role in creating inflation and also point to future economic activity.) 
  • Gold prices rose to $1,898 from $1,861 an ounce. (Good for mortgage rates*.) In general, it’s better for rates when gold rises, and worse when gold falls. Gold tends to rise when investors worry about the economy. And worried investors tend to push rates lower
  • CNN Business Fear & Greed index — was unavailable this morning. Check it for yourself. “Greedy” investors push bond prices down (and interest rates up) as they leave the bond market and move into stocks, while “fearful” investors do the opposite. So lower readings are better than higher ones

*A change of less than $20 on gold prices or 40 cents on oil ones is a fraction of 1%. So we only count meaningful differences as good or bad for mortgage rates.

Caveats about markets and rates

Before the pandemic and the Federal Reserve’s interventions in the mortgage market, you could look at the above figures and make a pretty good guess about what would happen to mortgage rates that day. But that’s no longer the case. The Fed is now a huge player and some days can overwhelm investor sentiment.

So use markets only as a rough guide. They have to be exceptionally strong (rates are likely to rise) or weak (they could fall) to rely on them. But, with that caveat, so far they’re looking quiet for mortgage rates today.

Find and lock a low rate (Dec 17th, 2020)

Important notes on today’s mortgage rates

Here are some things you need to know:

  1. The Fed’s ongoing interventions in the mortgage market (way over $1 trillion) should put continuing downward pressure on these rates. But it can’t work miracles all the time. So expect short-term rises as well as falls. And read “For once, the Fed DOES affect mortgage rates. Here’s why” if you want to understand this aspect of what’s happening
  2. Typically, mortgage rates go up when the economy’s doing well and down when it’s in trouble. But there are exceptions. Read How mortgage rates are determined and why you should care
  3. Only “top-tier” borrowers (with stellar credit scores, big down payments and very healthy finances) get the ultralow mortgage rates you’ll see advertised
  4. Lenders vary. Yours may or may not follow the crowd when it comes to daily rate movements — though they all usually follow the wider trend over time
  5. When rate changes are small, some lenders will adjust closing costs and leave their rate cards the same
  6. Refinance rates are typically close to those for purchases. But some types of refinances from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are currently appreciably higher following a regulatory change

So there’s a lot going on here. And nobody can claim to know with certainty what’s going to happen to mortgage rates in coming hours, days, weeks or months.

Are mortgage and refinance rates rising or falling?

Today

Once again, I’m expecting mortgage rates to be unchanged or barely changed today.

An agreement on Capitol Hill over a pandemic relief package might exert some upward pressure on them. But the most likely deal looks too watered down to give a serious fillip to either the economy or mortgage rates.

We dodged a bullet yesterday when the Fed said it would maintain its purchases of mortgage-backed securities until “substantial further progress has been made” toward an economic recovery.

And now we’re entering the holiday doldrums when it will probably take something very serious to shift these rates far.

The latest wave of the pandemic is slowing down the recovery from earlier waves. Yesterday’s retail figures for November were disappointing, as were this morning’s weekly numbers for new claims for unemployment insurance. So I’m expecting low rates for some months to come.

Recently

Over the last few months, the overall trend for mortgage rates has clearly been downward. And a new, weekly all-time low has been set on 15 occasions so far this year, according to Freddie Mac. The most recent such record occurred today — on Dec. 17.

Expert mortgage rate forecasts

Looking further ahead, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) each has a team of economists dedicated to monitoring and forecasting what will happen to the economy, the housing sector and mortgage rates.

And here are their current rates forecasts for the last quarter of 2020 (Q4/20) and the first three of 2021 (Q1/21, Q2/21 and Q3/21).

However, note that Fannie’s (released on Dec. 15) and the MBA’s (Nov. 17) are updated monthly. But Freddie’s are now published quarterly. And its latest was released on Oct. 14. So that’s beginning to look stale.

The numbers in the table below are for 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages:

Forecaster Q4/20 Q1/21 Q2/21 Q3/21
Fannie Mae 2.8% 2.7% 2.7% 2.8%
Freddie Mac 3.0% 3.0% 3.0% 3.0%
MBA 2.9% 3.0% 3.0% 3.2%

So predictions vary considerably. You pays yer money …

And another forecast

On Dec. 2, the National Association of Realtors threw its hat into the forecasting ring. It said:

The forecast anticipates mortgage rates will begin slowly going up toward the last half of 2021, reaching 3.4% by the end of the year.

Find your lowest rate today

Some lenders have been spooked by the pandemic. And they’re restricting their offerings to just the most vanilla-flavored mortgages and refinances.

But others remain brave. And you can still probably find the cash-out refinance, investment mortgage or jumbo loan you want. You just have to shop around more widely.

But, of course, you should be comparison shopping widely, no matter what sort of mortgage you want. As federal regulator the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says:

Shopping around for your mortgage has the potential to lead to real savings. It may not sound like much, but saving even a quarter of a point in interest on your mortgage saves you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.

Verify your new rate (Dec 17th, 2020)


Mortgage rate methodology

The Mortgage Reports receives rates based on selected criteria from multiple lending partners each day. We arrive at an average rate and APR for each loan type to display in our chart. Because we average an array of rates, it gives you a better idea of what you might find in the marketplace. Furthermore, we average rates for the same loan types. For example, FHA fixed with FHA fixed. The end result is a good snapshot of daily rates and how they change over time.

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