How Inflation Affects Mortgage Interest Rates

By Michael Flannelly · February 16, 2024 · 6 minute read

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How Inflation Affects Mortgage Interest Rates

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. Then, as inflation cools, mortgage interest rates can be expected to ease as well.

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, and many borrowers have been relieved in recent months to see the inflation rate, which trended upward in 2022, begin to ebb, coming closer to the target goal.

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.

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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.


Average Inflation Rate

Average Mortgage Rate

2022 8 4.87*
2021 4.7 2.96
2020 1.2 3.11
2019 1.8 3.94
2018 2.4 4.54
2017 2.1 3.99
2016 1.3 3.65
2015 0.1 3.85
2014 1.6 4.17
2013 1.5 3.98
2012 2.1 3.66
2011 3.2 4.45
2010 1.6 4.69
2009 -0.4 5.04
2008 3.8 6.03
2007 2.8 6.34
2006 3.2 6.41
2005 3.4 5.87
2004 2.7 5.84
2003 2.3 5.83
2002 1.6 6.54
2001 2.8 6.97
2000 3.4 8.05
1981 10.3* 16.63
1980 13.5 13.74
1979 11.3 11.20
1978 7.6 9.64
1975 9.1 9.05
1974 11.0 9.19

*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 2024

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. Many consumers noticed inflation because of increased food prices: 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 2021 and 2022 are thought to have been driven by a combination of increased demand for goods and services, shortages on the supply side, and higher commodity prices due to geopolitical conflicts. The Federal Reserve responded by raising interest rates — 11 times between March 2022 and October 2023. Mortgage interest rates also trended north to 7%. But the Fed’s measures appear to have had the desired result, putting the brakes on inflation, although it remained above the target. By early 2024, inflation seemed to be moderating when compared to recent years.

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. In fact, mortgage-servicing costs are nearly half the size that they were in 2006-2008. 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.

💡 Quick Tip: Lowering your monthly payments with a mortgage refinance from SoFi can help you find money to pay down other debt, build your rainy-day fund, or put more into your 401(k).

The Takeaway

Inflation appears to be ebbing but homebuyers can likely expect continued variations in interest rates in 2024. It’s true that buying a home or refinancing when mortgage rates are lower could mean substantial savings over the life of your loan. But if you’re ready to buy and your finances are in good shape, it doesn’t make sense to wait for slight changes in interest rates — if you’re ready to own your own home, the time is right for you.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.

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Photo credit: iStock/Max Zolotukhin

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