Potential homebuyers savvy enough to track these things are eying the yield on the 10-year Treasury note — an investment tool that’s proven itself a predictor of rises in 30-year fixed mortgage rates.
The note prompted collective gulps when it closed a hairbreadth from 3 percent on Christmas Eve, then hit 3.02 percent Friday, a benchmark unseen since July 2011, according to Bloomberg News. Depending on who’s talking, that could mean nothing or could signal it’s time to lock in favorable mortgage rates, which are hovering around 4.5 to 4.75 percent.
Middle Tennessee lenders and real estate brokers are wrapping up a successful year, one many said they’ll expect to see repeated in 2014, regardless of potential slight increases in rates. The Greater Nashville Association of Realtors Inc. is reporting more closings through November than in all of 2012.
“Does anybody know where rates are going? Absolutely not,” said Richard E. Herrington, president and CEO of Franklin Synergy Bank. “If we knew where rates were going, you would be contacting me in the Bahamas. Our perspective is that we’re going to see some gyrations, but we’re not going to see significant increase in rates for the next year or so.”
Middle Tennessee’s housing recovery is outpacing the nation’s. New-home sales slipped 2.1 percent nationally between October and November, but totals for prior months were revised sharply higher and the report solidly beat economists’ estimates, the Census Bureau said last week.
The new data show that consumers have adjusted to the recent rise in mortgage rates, economists said. Since the Federal Reserve began signaling in May that it would be dialing down its economic stimulus, 30-year mortgage rates have climbed from 3.51 percent. The Fed said it will begin tapering next month, reducing monthly bond purchases by $10 billion to $75 billion.
And while home sales slumped nationally in July, they picked back up, likely because Americans began to realize mortgage rates are still near historic lows, economists said.
Complaints over mortgages at 4.5 percent prompt chuckles from Susan Collins, a broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Woodmont Realty in Brentwood.
“When my husband and I built a house in the 1980s, we paid 11 percent, and it adjusted up every year,” she said. “Obviously, as the rates go up, it will push some people out of the market. But the market is still strong, and inventory levels are low.”
Still, Collins said, she’s seeing a little more hesitancy than before the recession. Buyers are less likely to offer more than list price, and appraisers are being held to a higher standard in assessing the values of homes for loans.
Too many people who overpaid in 2006 and then made costly improvements lost money, making today’s buyers more cautious with their optimism, she said.
One of her clients, Blye Hunsinger, plunged right into the Nashville market after landing a human resources job here. He and his wife lived in rural North Carolina, Hunsinger said, and decided to try urban life in Nashville. It made sense to buy right away, when rents on nicer homes were the same as mortgages, he said, and they were attracted by East Nashville’s cool vibe and walk-ability.
They are scheduled to close Jan. 13.
“We’ve been following mortgage rates closely and knew they were attractive now,” Hunsinger said. “Basically, all signs are indicating they would go up in the new year. That all mattered in what we feel is a competitive market. We’re coming from a housing area that isn’t as hot as Nashville and paying more than we thought we were going to pay. Seeing that tick up a point or two would have an impact.”