The legendary figure of The Wanderer has different connotations in different cultures. English teachers in Utah County high school classrooms have always taught some of the most famous parts of Homer’s Odyssey—the heroic story of Ulysses, the most famous wanderer. Ulysses wandered in and out of a lot of trouble…
Planets are wanderers, too. During ancient night times, ancient shepherds looked up and watched them meandering restlessly among the stars, so they called them planets (“wanderers”). Dion (of Dion and the Belmonts) was the most celebrated wanderer of the 60s—at least his hit song claimed that he roamed “around around around around”).
In today’s Utah County culture, though, wandering is a lot less glamorous than it’s been through most of history. A modern definition includes the bit about moving around, but most dictionaries include less-than-positive modifiers like “aimless” or “without plan or purpose.”
So when Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen gave a recent speech that Utah County mortgage rate observers hoped would signal the direction where rates are headed, they expected clarity on the Fed’s plan and purpose. Last Thursday, The Washington Post headlined the following days’ financial reaction:
“Mortgage Rates Wander Higher but Remain Near Yearly Lows.”
When financial writers talk about mortgage rates that “wander,” it doesn’t really matter in which direction. It means that they’re going up and down in what amounts to wandering’s “aimless manner.” If it signals anything, it’s mainly that the signals from all corners are mixed. At Jackson Hole, Chair Yellen had signaled that the central bank “is moving closer” to raising their benchmark rate, but it seemed that the signal was not too convincing: Bankrate.com found that nearly 90% of the experts it talked to think rates will remain unchanged for a while.
As for how the Post could see rates “wandering” higher yet remaining near 2016 lows, it became clear in the paragraphs down below. The average 30-year mortgage rate had changed from 3.43% to 3.46%, remaining stuck in the range that’s lasted all summer (it’s been moving up and down no more than 7 hundredths of a percent). “Wandering” sounds appropriate. Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist said mortgage rates have been “hovering;” but “wandering” sounds at least as apt. What this means for Utah County real estate is perhaps the only really clear signal to emerge. For the moment, Utah County mortgage rates remain appetizingly low, keeping the residential market pegged at historical bargain basement levels.
Best of all, that means it’s still a great time to give me a call!