Monday, April 20, 2009

Rates on 30-year Mortgages Dip

Source: SF Gate

Rates on 30-year mortgages dipped last week after rising a week earlier, and remain just above record lows.

Freddie Mac said Thursday that average rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages fell to 4.82 percent last week from 4.87 percent the previous week. Rates have been below 5 percent for five consecutive weeks.

The all-time low of 4.78 percent was recorded the week of April 2. Freddie Mac's survey dates back to 1971.

Low rates have sparked a surge in refinancing activity, with nearly 80 percent of new home loan applications coming from borrowers seeking to refinance. Freddie Mac's sibling company, Fannie Mae, refinanced $77 billion in loans last month, nearly double February's level and the best month for such activity since 2003.

Mortgage rates fell dramatically over the winter. They fell further after the Federal Reserve said last month it would buy $1.2 trillion in mortgage-backed securities and $300 billion in long-term government debt, which traditionally influences rates on 30-year home loans.

"The housing industry is starting to exhibit some positive signs," Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac's chief economist, said in a statement but noted they were "scarce and too early to tell how permanent."

Home builders are feeling a lot more optimistic that the worst housing downturn in decades may be finally starting to turn around. An index of builders' confidence released Wednesday posted its biggest one-month jump in five years in April as many home buyers seized on lower prices and incentives, and took advantage of lower interest rates and tax credits.

Qualifying for a loan, however, is still tough. Lenders have tightened their standards dramatically over the past year, so the best rates are available only to those with solid credit.

The average rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to 4.48 percent last week from 4.54 percent the previous week, according to Freddie Mac. Rates on five-year adjustable-rate mortgages fell to 4.88 percent from 4.93 percent and rates on one-year adjustable-rate mortgages rose to 4.91 percent from 4.83 percent.

The rates do not include points. The nationwide fee averaged 0.6 of a point last week for all mortgages in Freddie Mac's survey except for one-year adjustable mortgages, which had an average fee of 0.7 of a point.

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