Mortgage rates remain at near record lows

Mortgage rates fall slightly, drifting closer to recent record-low levels. Will these mortgage rates last for long?

Seth Perlman/AP/File
In this photo taken July 15, 2011, in Springfield, Ill., a newly constructed home for sale is shown. Mortgage rates remain near record lows.

The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage was nearly unchanged for a second straight week after rising from a record low.

Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan fell to 4.10 percent from 4.11 percent last week. Three weeks ago, it dropped to 3.94 percent. The National Bureau of Economic Research says that's the lowest rate ever.

The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage was unchanged at 3.38 percent. Three weeks ago, it hit a record low of 3.26 percent.

Low rates have done little to jolt the struggling housing market. Sales remain depressed, and home prices are still dropping in many markets.

High unemployment and declining wages have made it harder for many people to qualify for loans. Most of those who can afford to refinance already have.

The number of Americans who bought previously occupied homes fell in September and is on pace to match last year's dismal figures — the worst in 13 years.

Sales of new homes rose last month after four straight monthly declines. But the increase was largely because builders cut their prices and it followed a peak buying season that was the worst on records going back nearly 50 years.

Many borrowers are unable to take advantage of the low rates because they can't meet banks' restrictive lending standards, or are unable to scrape together a down payment.

The low rates have caused a modest boom in refinancing, but that benefit might be wearing off. Most people who can afford to refinance have already locked in rates below 5 percent.

The Federal Reserve has been helped push rates lower by buying longer-dated Treasurys, such as 10-year Treasury notes. Mortgage rates tend to track the yield on the 10-year note. Buying by the Fed pulls the yield lower.

Rates have been below 5 percent for all but two weeks in the past year. Just five years ago they were closer to 6.5 percent.

The average rates don't include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount. The average fee for the 30-year fixed mortgage was unchanged at 0.8 point. The average fee for the 15-year loan fell to 0.7 point from 0.8 point.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country on Monday through Wednesday of each week.

The average rate on the five-year adjustable loan rose to 3.08 percent from 3.01 percent. It hit a record low of 2.96 percent three weeks ago.

The average rate on the one-year adjustable loan fell to 2.90 percent from 2.94 percent. It fell last month to 2.81 percent, the lowest on records dating to 1984.

The average fee on the five-year adjustable loan fell to 0.5 point from 0.6 point. The average fee on the one-year adjustable loan was unchanged at 0.6 percent.

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