Mortgage rates have taken a breather over the past couple weeks.'s weekly survey has the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rising a mere basis point to 4.49% this past week; Freddie Mac' s survey shows 4.33% for a similar loan.

These are still good rates from a historical basis, and from an expectations basis. Unless civil unrest in Ukraine and Venezuela spread throughout Eastern Europe and South America (which is unlikely), we see little impetus for rates to move lower, and significant impetus for them to move higher.

We say that because the Federal Reserve appears to be all-in on tapering. In the minutes from the latest Federal Reserve governors meeting, several participants argued that, in the absence of an appreciable change in the economic outlook, Treasury bond and mortgage-rate securities purchases will be reduced by $10 billion each month. (The Fed currently purchases $65-billion worth of these securities monthly.) As the Fed tapers, the ceiling on mortgage rates weakens, meaning it becomes more likely rates will rise.

At the same time, many local housing markets are becoming less affordable. While it is still cheaper to own than to rent in the vast majority of markets, CNBC reports the scales are tipping the other way in major markets like Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Denver. We expect that trend to continue, and to spread to other markets.

So we have low lending rates and high affordability. It's not going to stay that way, though, and the dynamic can change faster than most people realize.

 Courtesy of Jessica Regan.

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