The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage fell this week to a record low, the ninth time that has happened in the last year. Even with the cheapest rates in history, the housing market remains depressed.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan dropped to 3.87 percent this week. That is below the previous record of 3.88 hit two weeks ago.
The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage fell to 3.14 percent, also a record low. Records for mortgage rates date back to the 1950s.
Mortgage rates tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which fell below 1.9 percent this week.
Rates have been low for more than a year, and the average rate on the 30-year loan has hovered near 4 percent for more than three months. Yet few people can afford to buy a home or qualify for a loan. Those who can have already done so.
High unemployment and scant wage gains have made it harder for many people to qualify for loans. Many don't want to sink money into a home that they fear could lose value over the next few years.
Sales of previously occupied homes were dismal last year. New-home sales in 2011 were the worst on records going back half a century.
Builders are hopeful that the low rates could boost sales next year. But so far, they have had a minimal impact.
Mortgage applications have risen slightly over the past four weeks, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. But they are coming off extremely low levels.
To calculate the average rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country Monday through Wednesday of each week.
The average rates don't include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowestrates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.
The average fee for the 30-year loan rose to 0.8 from 0.7; the average on the 15-year fixed mortgage was unchanged at 0.8.
For the five-year adjustable loan, the average rate fell to 2.80 percent from 2.85 percent. The average on the one-year adjustable loan rose to 2.76 percent from 2.74 percent.
The average fee on the five-year adjustable loan rose was unchanged at 0.7; the average on the one-year adjustable-rate loan was unchanged at 0.6.