History As A Teacher: What To Do When Mortgage Rates Plummet

For the fifth time in a year, rate shoppers learned an important lesson this week: When mortgage rates plummet unexpectedly, they often recover just as fast.

Wednesday, the Federal Reserve’s newest $750 billion mortgage market pledge helped to push conforming mortgage rates near their lowest levels since WWII. 

24 hours later, however, those rates were expired.

After considering the long-term implications of the Federal Reserve — literally — printing new money to service the recession, markets grew fearful that the Fed’s interventions will eventually lead to inflation.  Inflation, of course, is the enemy of mortgage rates.

So, if you’re looking for the explanation of why rates rose as suddenly Thursday as they fell the day prior, this is it.  And, in hindsight, rate shoppers might have seen it coming, if only because we’ve seen the exact pattern 4 other times:

  1. After the Fed’s “surprise” rate cut in January 2008
  2. After the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac takeovers in September 2008
  3. After the Fed announced its first $500 in support in November 2008
  4. After the Fed zeroed out the Fed Funds Rate in December 2008

Sharp drops in mortgage rate, it seems, are followed by immediate bounce-backs. 

Unfortunately, not every would-be refinancing homeowner saw the increase coming.  People that locked Wednesday captured the lowest rates in 6 decades.  Everyone else wishes they had.

From day-to-day, we don’t know if mortgage rates will rise or fall. Nobody knows that.  But, we do know that mortgage rates tend to follow patterns and we’ve seen the above pattern 5 times now.

When mortgage rates plunge like they did Wednesday, they rarely low for long. When you find a rate you like, get in and get locked as soon as possible. By tomorrow, it’s likely to be gone.