But as we’ve noted so many times before, the great low rate doesn’t mean anything if you can’t qualify, if you don’t have the down payment or credit scores to get it.
“Instead, the underlying improvement in housing demand is still very reliant on cash buyers and investors,” notes Paul Diggle of Capital Economics, who does not believe mortgage rates will fall dramatically. “Admittedly, low bond yields and savings rates more generally are probably playing a part in the strength of investor demand for housing.”
Lower rates could cause a boost in refinances, but so many have already refied at record low rates that it would take a pretty large drop to lure more in, given the fees and hassle involved. And of course negative equity keeps millions of potential refinancers out of the game. The government’s refinance program for underwater borrowers (HARP) has helped over half a million borrowers get lower rates since the beginning of this year, but unless you have a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac backed loan, you’re not eligible.
There is a push by Democrats in Congress to expand the government’s refi program, and lower mortgage rates could help more Republicans come on board, but that is unlikely to happen before election day. (Read More: Wealthiest Counties Rake In Government-Backed Mortgages)
“To ensure as many voters as possible can benefit from this, we believe there will be another push to enact HARP expansion legislation during the lame duck session that will start after the election,” says Jaret Seiberg of Guggenheim Partners. “Lower mortgage rates only matter if people can refinance and plow that extra cash into the economy. Given that as many as a quarter of borrowers may be underwater, the HARP is the way to translate the Federal Reserve’s effort into economic stimulus.”
It is hard to say now just how low rates will go and just who will be able to benefit from lower mortgage rates. In today’s tricky housing recovery, so dependent on investors and so sensitive to a still-swollen pipeline of foreclosed properties and delinquent loans, mortgage rates are just one piece of the recovery puzzle.
Sector Watch - Nation's Biggest Mortgage Lenders:
- Wells Fargo
- JPM Chase
- Bank of America
- U.S. Bancorp
Questions? Comments? RealtyCheck@cnbc.comAnd follow me on Twitter @Diana_Olick