Mortgage rates rise, Freddie Mac says, but jumbo loans are cheap

A "sold" sign is posted in front of a home in San Francisco.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

With interest rates rising, it’s getting harder to find a great deal on a home loan these days -- unless you’re rich enough to be looking for a jumbo mortgage.

Mortgage rates rose early this week, Freddie Mac said in its latest report, with lenders offering a 30-year fixed home loan to solid borrowers at an average of 4.57% -- up from 4.51% last week and a full percentage point higher than a year ago.


Rates for 15-year fixed mortgages and adjustable loans also edged higher, a trend Freddie Mac chief economist Frank Nothaft attributed to a healthier-looking economy. He pointed to stronger growth in the gross domestic product and other indicators.

Additional positive economic reports Thursday drove the yield on the 10-year Treasury note -- a benchmark for fixed mortgage rates -- to nearly 3%. That was its highest level since July 2011, and home lending rates were volatile but continuing to move higher, mortgage professionals said.

Freddie Mac asks lenders each week about the terms they are offering to people with good credit, enough income to cover payments and 20% down payments. The borrowers in the latest survey would have paid lenders an average of 0.7% in upfront discount points and fees to obtain the quoted rates.

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The improving economy also has contributed to another trend -- heavy competition among lenders to make jumbo mortgages. The outsize loans, too big to be backed by Freddie Mac or its sister finance company, Fannie Mae, are written mainly for affluent residents of the East and West coasts, where home prices have risen rapidly over the past year.

The Mortgage Bankers Assn. says jumbo loan rates are now lower than those for smaller, so-called conforming mortgages that can be sold to or guaranteed by Freddie and Fannie. It’s a trend that Brad Blackwell, executive vice president of No. 1 mortgage lender Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, called “unprecedented.”

“This is a new phenomenon -- something we’ve never seen before,” Blackwell said in an interview.

Fannie and Freddie guidelines cap conforming loans at $417,000, with higher limits in areas where home prices are high. Los Angeles and Orange counties are among the places with the highest limits -- currently $625,500, although pressures are building in Washington to lower the cap.

Blackwell said Wells Fargo was making jumbo loans with no upfront costs to borrowers at 4.75% on Thursday, compared with conforming loans at 5%.

The difference in rates was even greater for loans that are fixed for seven or 10 years before becoming adjustable, he said.

US 30 Year Mortgage Rate data by YCharts


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