Maybe it's the holiday season. Or fear about the economy. Or expectations that rates will go even lower next year.
Whatever it is, Americans are not taking advantage of historic low mortgage rates.
Even though rates fell to a new low for the year, fewer Americans applied for mortgages to buy homes or refinanced their existing mortgages last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA). The group's composite index of loan volume fell 2.6 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis (2.8 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis). The decline in home buyers was even steeper 4.9 percent, while the refinancing index dropped 1.6 percent.
"Remarkably low rates are not enough, as many homeowners continue to hold back due to lack of equity in their properties, poor credit, and a weak job market," Michael Fratantoni, MBA's vice president of research and economics, said in a statement.
The average rates for a 30-year fixed mortgage dropped to 4.08 percent, the lowest rate of 2011, MBA reported, with 0.49 points. The average for a 15-year fixed mortgage was 3.39 percent with 0.40 points, also a new low for the year.
Will rates fall even lower next year? With turmoil in the eurozone causing investors to seek safety in US Treasury bonds (which lowers interest rates), some analysts see rates dipping a bit more in coming months.
Even if they don't reach new lows, current levels are at levels not seen since at least the 1950s. And they'll remain extremely attractive through 2012, forecasts Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for Bankrate.com, an online aggregator of financial rate information.