If you’re looking to buy a home or refinance your current one in the new year, there’s good news: Today’s low mortgage rates are expected to continue into 2020.
The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate started 2019 at 4.68% and steadily declined before closing out the year at 3.93 percent. In 2020, rates are expected to remain mostly stable, not straying too much higher or lower from the 4% mark.
Here are responses from a range of experts predicting what will happen to mortgage rates in 2020.
Expect mortgage rates to remain low
Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate chief financial analyst, predicts mortgage rates will stay relatively stable around 4% in 2020.
“The benchmark 30-year fixed rate mortgage will hopscotch back and forth over the 4% mark for much of 2020, remaining low enough to facilitate homebuying and providing ample refinancing opportunities on those trips below 4 percent,” he says.
Inflation is something borrowers should watch for, especially toward the end of 2020, McBride says. Core inflation, as measured by the Fed’s PCE Index, will top out at 2.2 percent, he predicts, which will likely keep the Fed muted on rate hikes.
“Rates will trend higher toward the back half of the year as inflation readings move above 2 percent.”
Since the end of June 2019, interest rates for the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage have stayed south of the 4% mark. They hit their lowest point on Sept. 4, dropping to 3.74 percent, according to Bankrate data. These historically low rates have helped homeowners save money by refinancing and made it easier for folks to afford to buy a house.
How the Federal Reserve could impact rates
It’s challenging to predict where rates will head in the future, as daily news has the power to sway rates. But if the Fed’s attitude is any indication, then rates should remain low next year.
“We have been in a low interest rate environment for quite some time, and the current signaling from the Fed is that rates will continue to remain low,” says Alexander Akel, president of Akel Homes in South Florida. “Even if they tick up north of 4 percent, they will remain extremely attractive when compared to historical rates.”
One thing rate-watchers should consider is that we’re voting for a president in 2020, which might compel the Fed to take a backseat to the political action in D.C., says Tony Taveekanjana, executive vice president and chief production officer at Gateway First Bank.
“Obviously, there are no guarantees that mortgage rates will stay where they are for all of 2020. However, one significant factor is that 2020 is in an election year,” Taveekanjana says. “Historically, the Fed moves to the sidelines as it relates to rate hikes or cuts during the election and then steps back in to stimulate the economy by doing what they feel is necessary once the election is over. Based on this, it would be reasonable to expect rates to generally stay in the same area as they are now.”
Although low rates are generally a good thing, they can also fatten price tags of homes, which might cancel out some of the savings, observes Mike Hardwick, owner at Escrow Services of Tennessee.
“In 2020, we anticipate that rates will remain stable. This will cause home prices to increase slightly, but we will also see some improvement in home sales. Also, margins will continue to tighten,” Hardwick says.