Average 30-year loan rate ties record: 3.94 pct.

AP News
Posted: Dec 15, 2011 11:54 AM
Average 30-year loan rate ties record: 3.94 pct.

The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage has dropped to 3.94 percent, the record low set in October.

Low rates offer a historic opportunity for those who can afford to buy or refinance. Still, many people either can't take advantage of the record-low rates or have already done so.

The rate on the 30-year home loan fell from 3.99 percent the previous week, Freddie Mac said Thursday. This week's 3.94 percent average matches the lowest on records dating to the 1950s.

The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage fell to 3.21 percent from 3.27 percent. That's also a record.

Rates could fall further still. Many economists think the yield on the 10-year Treasury note could creep lower in 2012. Long-term mortgage rates tend to track the 10-year Treasury yield.

Should the Federal Reserve launch a new program of bond purchases in the coming months to try to help the economy, that could further drive down mortgage rates.

Rates have been below 5 percent for all but two weeks this year. Even so, this year could end up as the worst for home sales in 14 years.

Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac's chief economist, said that despite the super-low loan rates, foreclosures and falling home values have created a "rough environment for housing."

Sales of previously occupied homes are just slightly ahead of last year's dismal sales figures _ and those were the worst in 13 years. New-home sales appear headed for their worst year on records dating back half a century.

Mortgage applications have risen slightly in recent weeks but are up from extremely low levels, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Last week, refinancings rose more than 9 percent, while loan applications to buy homes fell more than 8 percent.

Some lenders have reported an increase in applications through the Obama administration's refinancing program. That program was broadened in October to allow up to 1 million more homeowners lower their mortgage payments. But the MBA said such government-assisted loans account for just a small portion of refinancing.

High unemployment and scant wage gains have made it harder for many people to qualify for loans. Many Americans don't want to sink money into a home that could lose value over the next three to four years.

The Latest Demands From Ford
Cortney O'Brien

The average on the 30-year fixed loan has been below 5 percent for all but two weeks in the past year. And many homeowners who have the necessary credit and home equity to refinance already have.

To calculate average the 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 2.86 percent from 2.93 percent. The average on the one-year adjustable loan ticked up to 2.81 percent from 2.8 percent.

The average fee on the five-year loan rose from 0.5 to 0.6. And the fee on the one-year adjustable loan was unchanged at 0.6.