What the Federal Reserve's COVID response means for home buyers

Apr 30, 2020 8:51:13 PM / by Brett O'Daniell


Zero percent rates? Did you hear that right? You did, but they’re federal fund rates, not mortgage rates. 

On March 15, the Federal Reserve lowered the target range for the federal funds rate to 0 to ¼ percent, in an attempt to combat the current toll the coronavirus outbreak is having on the economy. The Federal Reserve explained, “This action will help support economic activity, strong labor market conditions, and inflation returning to the Committee’s symmetric 2 percent objective.” 

Zero percent mortgage rates, on the other hand, are indeed too good to be true—they don’t exist. Federal fund rates apply to overnight loans between U.S. financial institutions, not individual borrowers. 

Mortgage rates are dependent upon bonds which are traded thousands of times per day, and mortgage lenders typically update rates daily, while the Fed meets eight times per year (plus in the event of an emergency, such as the COVID-19 crisis) to discuss potential rate changes.

Despite mortgage rates not being completely slashed, as some misunderstood, they were still historically low, causing mass amounts of refinance applications to come through lenders’ doors. Those massive number of mortgages needed to be sold to investors in order for lenders to continue functioning, which in some instances overwhelmed investors, causing prices to fall and consumer rates to rise. Some lenders actually raised rates slightly as a means to slow down business.  


A recovery plan in the works

The Federal Reserve then announced it would buy unlimited amounts of treasuries and agency mortgages in order to help the credit markets. “While great uncertainty remains, it has become clear that our economy will face severe disruptions. Aggressive efforts must be taken across the public and private sectors to limit the losses to jobs and incomes and to promote a swift recovery once the disruptions abate,” the Federal Reserve explained, stating they’ll continue to purchase treasury securities and agency mortgage-backed securities. 


Where do mortgage rates stand? 

In early March, mortgage rates hit all-time lows, with the 30-year-fixed rate at 3.29 percent—the lowest average on record since Freddie Mac began tracking data in 1971—and have remained relatively low. While buyers strive to take advantage of these rates, competition will continue to increase, with inventory tightening and home prices rising. What can you do to help yourself stand out? 

A pre-approval* is a great place to start. In a matter of minutes, you can elevate yourself from the competition. Many of our lender partner's pre-approvals can be completed in 15 minutes or less.  You can also count on our lender partners to help you understand the ever-evolving market throughout this unprecedented and uncertain time. 


*“Pre-approval” means an automated underwriting system approval based upon credit information supplied by applicant and subject to the lender’s review of loan documents. Applicant subject to credit and underwriting approval. Not all applicants will be approved for financing. Receipt of application does not represent an approval for financing or interest rate guarantee. Restrictions may apply, contact lenders for current rates and for more information.



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Topics: Mortgage, Home Loan, housing market, mortgage payments

Brett O'Daniell

Written by Brett O'Daniell

Co-Founder of HomeTraq. 18+ years real estate and mortgage experience.

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