New Year, New Home: Mortgage Rates DOWN, seller concessions UP

by | Jan 12, 2023

The start of the new year has brought with it a surge in mortgage demand, as lower mortgage rates (I would say “lower,” I wouldn’t say “low”…) continue to entice homebuyers back into the market. We have seen an increase in inquiries and activity, with many formerly “hibernating” buyers looking to take advantage of the current rates before they potentially rise again.

However, it’s not just low interest rates that are making it easier for buyers to get on the property ladder. Sellers are also playing their part by offering more concessions and rate buydowns to help close deals. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), mortgage applications rose 1.2% for the week ending January 6, compared to the previous week.

The MBA’s Vice President and Deputy Chief Economist, Joel Kan, commented on the situation saying, “Mortgage rates declined last week as markets reacted to data showing a weakening economy and slowing wage growth.” This sentiment was echoed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which reported on Friday that job and wage growth is slowing, although the labor market finished 2022 stronger than expected.

The bond market’s reaction to this data has resulted in mortgage rates falling aggressively to a national average of 6.20%, which is more than 1% below the highs of 2022. This has made the market even more attractive for buyers, as sellers are also offering more incentives to entice buyers to their homes. Click here to find out what you’d be able to lock in.

According to a new report from a prominent real estate brokerage, a record 41.9% of home sellers gave concessions to homebuyers in the fourth quarter of 2022, through money for repairs and mortgage-rate buydowns. This represents the highest increase since July 2020, when Redfin started tracking this data. In the third quarter of 2022 and the fourth quarter of 2021, sellers gave concessions in 30% of home sales.

Temporary mortgage rate buydowns are a popular choice for sellers as they can be an attractive option for buyers. In a temporary mortgage rate buydown, the seller’s concessions are put in an escrow account to make up the difference in interest due between the bought-down interest rate and the permanent fixed interest rate. This means that when, and if, the buyer refinances in 12-24 months, any unused funds in the escrow account can be put towards the loan balance as a principal reduction.

With interest rates expected to trend lower over the coming year, lenders are promoting more buydowns as the need for purchase business becomes increasingly critical. This is great news for buyers, as it means that there are more options available to them to help them secure their dream home.

The current market conditions are providing a great opportunity for buyers to take advantage of low interest rates and more generous sellers. It’s worth noting that these conditions are subject to change, so buyers should act fast if they want to secure a good deal on their mortgage.

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