Mortgage and real estate news this week: Rate trends and homebuying advice

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It’s a traditionally slow period for the real estate market as folks start to focus more on family drama and last-minute gift shopping than buying a new house, but there are still some trends worth keeping your eye on.

1. Is the refi window closing?

Probably. It’s been a busy year-plus for cash-out refinancing with home prices soaring and mortgage rates at record lows. Now may really be the last chance to give yourself the gift of low-rate home equity borrowing, with most experts predicting higher rates heading into the new year. Take advantage of your equity cheaply while you can.

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2. What’s going on with rates now?

They’re low but rising. This week the average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage reached 3.24 percent. It’s still low by historical standards, but much higher than the sub-3 rates that were available earlier this year.

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3. And where are mortgage rates headed?

Up. Nearly three quarters of the experts in Bankrate’s weekly poll said they expect rates to be higher next week. Their predictions again underscore the importance of considering a refi if you haven’t already, or you risk being left behind.

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4. Understanding PMI

If you are getting a new mortgage soon, you may need to familiarize yourself with private mortgage insurance, or PMI. If the balance on your mortgage is worth more than 80 percent of your home’s total value, most lenders will require you to pay this extra fee each month  until you hold at least 20 percent equity in the property free and clear. Low down payment mortgages can help new homeowners get in the door, but these fees do make the monthly payments more expensive than they would be otherwise.

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5. What is a bridge loan?

These products are not super common these days because most homeowners looking to move are selling their current properties at a hefty profit and sales are happening much faster than purchases in most cases. But if you need to plug a funding gap between buying a new home and leaving your old one, understanding your options is important.

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Written by
Zach Wichter
Mortgage reporter
Zach Wichter is a mortgage reporter at Bankrate. He previously worked on the Business desk at The New York Times where he won a Loeb Award for breaking news, and covered aviation for The Points Guy.
Edited by
Senior mortgage editor
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