Mortgage rates at 2010 low, tumbled with stock market

The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell 5 basis points this week, to 5.07 percent, according to the national survey of large lenders.

A basis point is one-hundredth of 1 percentage point. That ties the 2010 low from the March 17 survey.

The mortgages in this week’s survey had an average total of 0.42 discount and origination points.

One year ago, the mortgage index was 5.21 percent; four weeks ago, it also was 5.21 percent.

The benchmark 15-year fixed-rate mortgage slipped 4 basis points, to 4.45 percent.

The benchmark 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage also dropped 4 basis points, to 4.27 percent

Invisible fall

If mortgage rates tumble across America and nobody sees it, did it really happen?

When the stock market suddenly plunged nearly 1,000 points in a few minutes on May 6, mortgage rates also collapsed.

By some accounts, rates fell to around 4.5 percent on the 30-year fixed and below 4 percent for some adjustable-rate mortgages.

But mortgage professionals say the rock-bottom borrowing costs didn’t last long, and went largely unnoticed by the public.

“I think it kinda sailed over everyone’s heads because everyone was hypnotized by the crash in the stock market,” says Jeff Lazerson, president of Mortgage Grader in Laguna Niguel, Calif.

Chris Sipe, senior loan officer at Embrace Home Loans in Frederick, Md., says that when rates fell, he experienced a “little pop” in refinance activity — but mostly because he called clients to alert them to the unexpected opportunity.

“Most people didn’t even understand what happened or the impact until rates had already begun to move off their lows,” Sipe says.

Post-credit progress report

Nearly two weeks after the homebuyer tax credit expired, what is the state of housing activity across the nation?

Surprisingly good, according to Jim Sahnger, mortgage consultant at Palm Beach Financial Network in Stuart, Fla.

“People still recognize that the combination of great rates and lower home prices represent a great opportunity,” Sangher says.

Lazerson says activity is “on fire” in his California community, particularly on lower-end properties.

“The sales activity — at least in my part of the country — is pretty brisk except on the very high end, except well over a million dollars,” he says.

Sipe says Maryland shoppers who failed to find a home in time to qualify for the tax credit nonetheless remain “in the market” for now.

But he frets that a combination of widespread foreclosures, rising mortgage rates and stricter lending guidelines could yet derail sales activity.

A new world order

Brian Peart’s worries run even deeper.

The president of Nexus Financial in Atlanta says people underestimate both the depth of the foreclosure crisis and just how dependent the economy’s health has become on continued government stimulus.

As a result, housing in many communities has a long steep hill of recovery ahead of it, he says.

“I talk to a lot of people in Florida, for example, (who) think the market has turned and soon we will see prices go back to normal — ‘normal’ to them being the market top in 2006-2007,” he says. “Prices in Florida will not get back there for 20 years, but people don’t see that.”

In fact, Peart believes that “housing has become a mature industry past its peak.”

He still sees the opportunity to find good deals, but says a lot of people who buy today and expect “rapid returns and appreciation will be disappointed, in my opinion.”

“I still would rather own than rent. I love my own house and my family has great memories there, and are still making great memories,” he says.

“But if I were to sell it today, I could only move it if I price it like it was when I bought it in 1998. That is just a market reality,” he said.

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