I Dare You to Try to Refinance. Go Ahead, Just Try.

The bond market seems to have had its own flash crash this week. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond dipped briefly below 2 percent, as panicked equity sellers looked for a safe place to park their cash. Treasuries, of course, are the world’s option of choice, the safest and most liquid port during the storm.

Demand for bonds has helped drive down mortgage rates as well. Bloomberg News reported that “U.S. mortgage rates plunged, sending borrowing costs for 30-year loans below 4 percent for the first time in 16 months, as signs of a slowing global economy drove investors to the safety of government bonds.” Almost immediately, lower rates worked their way through the entire credit complex.

The average rate on 30-year fixed home loan is now 3.97 percent. To put this into context, the median U.S. home price is $219,800. Put down 10 percent and that $200,000 mortgage costs the homebuyer $951 a month. A decade ago the same mortgage would have cost this buyer as much as 6.34 percent. The monthly payment would have been more than 25 percent higher at $1,243.

The chart below shows the long decline in rates:



Under normal circumstances, this decrease in rates should have far reaching and beneficial effects on the economy. It would spur increased investment in real estate. Mortgage refinancings also would rise, and that would put a little more discretionary cash in the hands of consumers each month.

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