The inflation rate doesn’t directly affect mortgage rates, but the two tend to move in tandem. Rising inflation shrinks purchasing power as prices of goods and services increase. Higher prices can then influence the Federal Reserve’s interest rate policy, affecting the cost of borrowing for lending products like mortgages.
Homebuyers looking for a home loan and homeowners who want to refinance a mortgage need to know that mortgage rates may rise as inflation increases.
Inflation Rate vs Interest Rates
Several factors may cause inflation, an increase in the overall price of goods and services over time.
The Federal Reserve, the central bank of the United States, tracks inflation rates and trends using several key metrics, including the Consumer Price Index (CPI), to determine how to direct monetary policy. A target inflation rate of 2% is considered ideal for maintaining a stable economic environment over the long run.
When inflation is on the rise and the economy is in danger of overheating, the Fed may raise interest rates to cool things down.
Lenders charge interest to borrowers who take out loans and lines of credit as a premium for the right to use the lender’s money.
Higher rates can make borrowing more expensive while also providing more interest to savers. People borrowing less and saving more can have a cooling effect on the economy.
When the economy is slowing down too much, on the other hand, the Fed may lower interest rates to encourage borrowing and spending.
Recommended: How to Protect Yourself From Inflation
What Affects Mortgage Rates?
Inflation rates don’t have a direct impact on mortgage rates, but there can be indirect effects because of how inflation influences the economy and the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy decisions.
The Federal Reserve does not set mortgage rates. Instead, the central bank sets the federal funds rate target, the interest rate that banks lend money to one another overnight. A Fed increase in this short-term interest rate often pushes up long-term interest rates for U.S. Treasuries.
Fixed-rate mortgages are tied to the yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes, which are government-issued bonds that mature in a decade. When the 10-year Treasury yield increases, the 30-year mortgage rate tends to do the same.
So in terms of what affects fixed-rate mortgage rates, movement in the 10-year Treasury yield is the short answer. Higher yields can mean higher rates, while lower yields can lead to lower rates. But overall, inflation rates, interest rates, and the economic environment can work together to sway mortgage rates at any given time.
If you track the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate and the average annual inflation rate, you’ll see that the percentages often move more or less in concert. Here’s a look at the past 22 years and some key dramatic years before that.
|Year||Average Inflation Rate||Average Mortgage Rate|
*Through September 2022
**In October 1981 the rate hit a historical peak of 18.45%
Sources: Consumer Price Index and Freddie Mac
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Inflation Trends for 2022 and Beyond
In September 2022, the U.S. inflation rate hit 8.2%, well beyond the Federal Reserve’s 2% target inflation rate.
While prices for consumer goods and services were up almost across the board, the most significant increases were in the energy category.
Concerns about food costs were validated. In the year ending August 2022, prices for food at home increased 13.5%, the largest 12-month percentage increase since the year ending March 1979. Prices for food away from home increased 8%.
Rising inflation rates in 2022 are thought to have been driven by a combination of things, including:
• Increased demand for goods and services
• Shortages in the supply of goods and services
• Higher commodity prices due to geopolitical conflicts
Supply chain disruptions began to ease midyear, according to the New York Fed’s Global Supply Chain Pressure Index. But a cut in oil production signaled by OPEC+ in October threatened to push prices back up at the gas pump.
Fed rate hikes were forecast to continue through 2022 and possibly into 2023. Many analysts believe that inflation will steadily decline. However, there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the economy that makes forecasting price trends difficult.
Recommended: Understanding the Different Types of Mortgage Loans
Is Now a Good Time for a Mortgage or Refi?
There’s a link between inflation rates and mortgage rates. But what does all of this mean for homebuyers or homeowners?
Despite increases, mortgage rates are still below average when viewed through a historical lens. As the Fed continues to pursue interest rate bumps, it could make sense to buy or refi sooner rather than later.
Buying a home now could help you lock in a deal on a loan and get a reasonable mortgage rate.
The same is true if you own a home and are considering refinancing your existing mortgage. However, when refinancing a mortgage, the math gets a bit trickier. You might need to determine your break-even point — when the money you save on interest payments matches what you’ll spend on closing costs for a refinance.
To find the break-even point on a refi, divide the closing costs by the monthly savings. If refinancing fees total $3,000 and you’ll save $250 a month, that’s 3,000 divided by 250, or 12. That means it’ll take 12 months to recoup the cost of refinancing.
If you refinance to a shorter-term mortgage, your savings can multiply beyond the break-even point.
Keep in mind that the actual rate you’ll pay for a purchase loan or refinance loan will depend on things like your credit score, income, and debt-to-income ratio.
Recommended: How to Refinance Your Mortgage — Step-By-Step Guide
Inflation appears to be here to stay, at least for the near term. Buying a home or refinancing when mortgage rates are lower could add up to a substantial cost difference over the life of your loan.
SoFi offers fixed-rate home loans, traditional mortgage refinancing, and a cash-out refinance. Now might be a good time to find the best loan for your needs and budget.
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