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If you’re hoping to buy a home this year, you’re probably paying close attention to mortgage rates. Since mortgage rates impact what you can afford when you take out a home loan – and affordability is a challenge today – it’s a good time to look at the big picture of where mortgage rates have been historically compared to where they are now. Beyond that, it’s important to understand their relationship with inflation for insights into where mortgage rates might go in the near future.

Giving Context to the Sticker Shock

Freddie Mac has been tracking the 30-year fixed mortgage rate since April of 1971. Every week, they release the results of their Primary Mortgage Market Survey, which averages mortgage application data from lenders across the country (see graph below):

Looking at the right side of the graph, mortgage rates have increased significantly since the start of last year. But even with that rise, today’s rates are still below the 52-year average. While that historical perspective is good context, buyers have gotten used to mortgage rates between 3% and 5%, which is where they’ve been over the past 15 years.

That’s important because it explains why the recent jump in rates might have you feeling sticker shock even though they’re close to their long-term average. While many buyers have adjusted to the elevated rates over the past year, a slightly lower rate would be a welcome sight. To determine if that’s a realistic poss