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Mortgage rates continue to climb — and could soon reach 8%

US mortgage rates surged to highest level in 21 years
US mortgage rates surged to highest level in 21 years 02:27

Even though mortgage rates have already reached their highest point in 20-plus years, there's a chance they could climb even higher — even as high as 8%. It all depends on how the Federal Reserve decides to tackle stubborn inflation in the next few months, economists told CBS MoneyWatch.

Fed officials said they believe high inflation is still enough of a threat to the U.S. economy to possibly warrant additional interest rate increases to help combat the issue, according to minutes released this week from their July policy meeting.

Should the Fed decide to raise rates again at its next meeting in September, it would be the 12th in 18 months and could mean even higher costs for homebuyers.

Mortgage rates don't necessarily mirror the Fed's rate increases, but tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. Investors' expectations for future inflation, global demand for U.S. Treasurys and what the Fed does with interest rates can influence rates on home loans.

Higher mortgage rates can add hundreds of dollars a month in costs for borrowers, limiting how much they can afford in a market already deemed unaffordable to many Americans.

Baby boomers dominating housing market with median first-time homebuyer age rising 04:20

Historical mortgage rates

A recent survey from Bankrate found that one-third of respondents who aspire to buy a home say high mortgage rates are holding them back. But in past decades, homebuyers faced even steeper loan rates.

"High rates are challenging for homebuyers, but it's worth noting that Americans bought homes before the recent era of super-low rates," said Jeff Ostrowski, a Bankrate analyst. "In one oft-cited example, mortgage rates went as high as 18% in the early 1980s, and buyers still found ways to get deals done."

Why are mortgage rates so high?

If the Fed raises rates again, mortgage lenders will likely respond by either raising their rates or keeping them closer to today's roughly 7.2%, economists said. 

The Fed's regime of interest rate hikes began in March 2022 as a way to cool the hottest inflation in four decades, as consumers and businesses tend to cut back on buying homes and other purchases when borrowing costs are higher.

"If the 30-year-fixed mortgage rate can hold at a high mark of 7.2%, and the 10-year yield holds at 4.2%, then this would be the high for mortgage rates before retreating," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors (NAR). "If it breaks this line and easily goes above 7.2%, then the mortgage rate could reach 8%."

An average 8% on home loans would be sour news for homebuyers, many of whom already faced a challenging market this summer with fewer homes available and higher asking prices. The national median home price hit $402,600 in July, up from $359,000 at the start of 2023, and the typical mortgage on a single-family home is now $2,051 compared with $1,837 a year ago, according  to NAR.

Yun said 8% mortgage rates would bring the housing market to a halt and may even sink asking prices. 

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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