msnbc.com staff and news service reports
The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage dropped to the lowest since records have been kept, creating a tempting target for people to refinance their homes.
Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage hit 3.87 percent, down from 3.98 percent the prior week. That’s 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.
Mortgage rates have hovered near 4 percent for the past three months, and have perhaps contributed to a slight improvement in the housing market. But many homeowners remain underwater and the pipeline of foreclosures continues to be huge, putting heavy pressure on housing prices.
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 lowest rates. 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
The Associated Press contributed to this report.