Mortgage rates top 7%, reaching highest level in two decades

Mortgage rates climbed above 7% this week to their highest level since 2002, throwing more cold water on the Bay Area housing market as buyers face soaring monthly home loan payments that are thousands of dollars more than a few years ago.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage was 7.09% as of Thursday, up from 6.96% last week, Freddie Mac reported. That’s an increase from 5.13% a year ago and more than double the historic-low 2.86% average rate this time in 2021.

A 30-year fixed “jumbo” home loan — which is common for more expensive homes — averaged 7.65% on Thursday, according to In the Bay Area, a jumbo loan is a mortgage that exceeds $1,089,200.

Mortgage rates have been on an upward trajectory since last spring when the Federal Reserve began raising the cost of borrowing in a bid to slow inflation. Rates briefly topped 7% percent in November, before falling to around 6% in February. They’ve trended up since then.

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The steeper rates haven’t just squeezed out would-be buyers, they’ve also caused potential sellers, who already locked in lower rates, to stay in their homes, cooling the Bay Area’s record-setting pandemic real estate market.

On Thursday, the California Association of Realtors reported the price of a typical single-family home in the Bay Area fell 5.2% between June and July to $1.26 million. The drop followed months of price gains during the traditionally busier spring home-buying season.

“Interest rates should moderate later this year if inflation eases further,” said Jordan Levine, chief economist with the association, in a statement. “And home sales could see some improvement in the winter season.”

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