Interest-rate cuts spurring mortgage refinancing

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 29, 2003

Paying for a house has gotten easier and easier over the last two years. As interest rates plummet, so too do mortgage rates.

&uot;We are at a 60-year low,&uot; said Brad Kirchner, a personal banking officer at US Bank in Albert Lea. &uot;It’s really incredible.&uot;

Kirchner also shed some light on a common misconception, pointing out that the mortgage rate doesn’t always correspond to the interest rate changes that the Federal Reserve and Chairman Alan Greenspan make.

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Mortgage rates, which are controlled by the bond market, can change due to the lowered interest rates, but those changes don’t always correspond.

Last week, when the Fed lowered interest rates, the mortgage rate actually increased by a quarter of a percentage point.

But, in general, the refinancing rates tend to follow the Fed.

Kirchner said

he believes Greenspan’s theory is to make people spend their money, instead of save it.

He said that by putting interest rates at all-time lows, it makes savings account interest nearly null, and makes buying or refinancing a home or car less expensive, in terms of interest.

Over at Security Bank Minnesota, the phones have been ringing off the hook in Julie Claussen’s office.

Claussen, the assistant vice president of the bank and a mortgage lender, said that every time the Fed lowers the interest rates, she gets customers ringing on the phone wanting to refinance mortgages.

She said that for the past two years, she’s noticed this trend. But she says customers are smart to take advantage of the low rates.

&uot;Six months ago I thought we’d hit the lowest we could go,&uot; she said. &uot;But they went ahead and broke five percent.&uot;

For 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, a popular option for refinancing, rates inched up to 4.63 percent this past week, from 4.62 percent the week before.

Claussen said that with a $50,000 house, a new

15-year mortgage would cost $388.92 per month, while a 30-year would cost $324.30 per month.

&uot;Over the long term you save a lot,&uot; she said. &uot;Refinancing can make for substantial savings.&uot;

With the ever-changing bond market, Claussen said, it is impossible to make any sort of statement on where rates will go next.

Kirchner said the same.

&uot;Customers call asking what will happen next,&uot; he said. &uot;I always tell them ‘My crystal ball stopped working a long time ago.’&uot;

The Associated Press contributed to this story.