Mortgages rise, again

Mortgages rise, again

Even before the Federal Reserve raised short-term rates, mortgages already had gone up to their highest level in nearly three years.

Mortgage rates probably won’t stop rising. The Fed is even more sure that it will hike two more times this year. Mortgage rates could wind up dipping in reaction to the latest Fed rate hike, although that’s not a sure thing. If they do fall a bit, don’t be surprised if they resume their upward path a few days later.

Homebuyers and refinancers should get mortgages sooner rather than later if they want to seize the lowest rates.

Buying a home or refinancing soon? Here’s what you should do:

■ If you’re closing by March 22: Lock.

■ If you’re closing by March 29: Float.

■ If you’re closing by mid-April: Float.

■ If you’re closing by mid-May: Float.

Beware higher HELOC rates

Every three months, the central bank delivers its best guess as to where the overall economy is headed. This time it raised its inflation expectations slightly for 2017, and it signaled that it won’t freak out if inflation exceeds its 2 percent target for a while. Policymakers are more decisive that they will increase short-term rates three times this year, instead of once or twice.

Interest rates on home equity lines of credit, known as HELOCs, will go up a quarter of a percentage point as a result of the Fed’s rate increase. HELOC borrowers will see the higher rate reflected in the next billing statement or the one after that. For homeowners who need an inexpensive source to borrow from, rates are still attractive on HELOCs.

Mortgage rates this week

The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose this week to 4.44 percent from 4.38 percent, according to Bankrate’s weekly survey of large lenders. A year ago, it was 3.93 percent. Four weeks ago, the rate was at an average of 4.35 percent.

This is the highest rate for the 30-year fixed since April 23, 2014, when it was 4.48 percent.

The mortgages in this week’s survey had an average total of 0.28 discount and origination points.

Over the past 52 weeks, the 30-year fixed has averaged 3.87 percent. This week’s rate is 0.57 percentage points higher than the 52-week average.

Other key mortgage rates:

■ The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to an average of 3.64 percent, from 3.57 percent.

■ The average 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage rose to 3.60 percent, from 3.57 percent.

■ The 30-year fixed-rate jumbo mortgage rose to an average of 4.43 percent, from 4.35 percent.

Don’t panic

Although mortgage rates are likely to rise gradually through the year, you shouldn’t rush out and do something rash, says Rick Sharga, executive vice president of Ten-X, home to an online home auction marketplace. He points out that most projections don’t have mortgage rates going much past 4.75 percent by the end of this year.

This week’s average mortgage rate is within striking distance of 4.5 percent. Principal and interest on a $200,000, 30-year mortgage at 4.5 percent is $1,013. At a rate of 4.75 percent, that payment rises to $1,043.

To put rates in more perspective, the 30-year fixed has averaged 6.16 percent over the last 25 years, making current mortgage rates a bargain.