Flat screens and espresso makers? No, turns out that consumers should have been buying mortgages on Cyber Monday. By the end of the day, the average rate on the commonly used 30-year-fixed mortgage was 4.5 percent, its highest point since mid-September, according to Mortgage News Daily. It was 3.36 percent a year ago.
"Investors are hesitant to move lower in rates ahead of the important data coming up throughout the week, and most importantly on Friday with the employment report," said Matthew Graham, chief operating officer of MND.
Data on new-home sales are set to be released Wednesday, along with manufacturing and payroll data. Jobless claims are out Thursday, and then the big monthly nonfarm payrolls (NFP) report.
"It's been increasingly the case that we see these leadoffs, starting ahead of NFP, because investors don't want to get caught offsides after a fast NFP move," Graham said.
That's why those who are considering a refinance or a home purchase might want to lock in Tuesday, as rates come slightly off Monday's highs before a possible surge.
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"I convinced my entire pipeline to lock today," said one mortgage originator on MBS Live, an online data platform and industry community.
It could all go the other way, of course, but not much. While 4.5 percent may not yet be a floor, it is increasingly clear that 4.25 percent is. These moves may seem small, but consumers need to pay attention.
Home prices were up 12.5 percent in October, according to the latest reading from CoreLogic. While the gains are beginning to slow, the sharp move up this year has rattled the housing recovery.
"We have come too far too fast," Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff said on CNBC's "Squawkbox."
Consumers are now "dual tracking" on Zillow—comparing rents to purchase prices—but not paying nearly enough attention to mortgage rates, he said.
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"Most American homebuyers are still so uneducated about the importance of mortgages that they obsess about whether a home is going to be $300,000 or $310,000, but whether they're paying 4 percent or 4.2 percent is lost on them," Rascoff said.
Despite rising rates, several mortgage products are available, and you may be able to reduce your monthly payment a bit if you have clean credit and a solid down payment. In today's market, of course, those are big ifs. While housing price gains had been viewed as a sign of recovery, most are now saying that a slowdown going into 2014 is a good thing.
"The slowdown in price appreciation is positive for the housing market as almost half the states are now within 10 percent of their respective historical price peaks," said Mark Fleming, chief economist at CoreLogic.
Taking a collective breath will help some during the slow winter season, but buyers should beware that spring could bring not just higher prices but higher mortgage rates. The days of the 3 percent 30-year fixed are clearly over.
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