Mortgage Rates Reach Record Lows for 3rd Straight Week

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WASHINGTON -- Average U.S. rates for 30-year and 15-year fixed mortgages fell to record lows for the third straight week. The steady decline has made homebuying and refinancing more affordable than ever for those who can qualify.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the rate on the 30-year loan dipped to 3.79 percent. That's down from 3.83 percent last week and the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.

The 15-year mortgage, a popular option for refinancing, declined to 3.04 percent. That's down from last week's previous record of 3.05 percent.

Rates on the 30-year loan have been below 4 percent since early December. But so far, those cheap rates haven't been enough to ignite home sales.

While sales of previously occupied homes picked up in January and February, they fell again in March and remain well below healthy levels.

Boost in Confidence

Low mortgage rates have helped boost builder confidence, which rose in May to a five-year high. And home construction has improved in the past six months, a reflection of that increase in confidence.

Builders broke ground in April at a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 717,000 homes, the government reported Wednesday. That nearly matches January's pace, the best since October 2008.

Construction rose for both single-family homes and apartments. And builders requested more permits to build single-family homes, a sign that they expect more demand in the coming months.

Still, many would-be buyers can't qualify for loans or afford higher down payments required by banks. Home prices in many cities continue to fall. That has made those who can afford to buy uneasy about entering the market. And for those who are willing to brave the troubled market, many have already taken advantage of lower rates -- mortgage rates have been below 5 percent for more than a year now.

The Treasury-Note Connection

Mortgage rates are lower because they tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. Slower U.S. job growth and uncertainty about how Europe will resolve its debt crisis have led investors to buy more Treasurys, which are considered safe investments. As demand for Treasurys increases, the yield falls.

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

The average rage does not 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 30-year loans was 0.7 last week, unchanged from the previous week. The fee on 15-year loans also was 0.7, the same as the previous week.

The average one-year adjustable rate was 2.78 percent last week, up from 2.73 percent the previous week. The fee on one-year adjustable rate mortgages was unchanged at 0.5.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

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Mortgage Rates Reach Record Lows for 3rd Straight Week

The jury is in: Our beleaguered housing market has finally turned the corner, many experts say.

Not only are home prices beginning to edge up for the first time in months, but other indicators, like home construction and sales, are stronger than they've been in years. Still, with tight lending conditions and shaky employment, the progress is slow in most communities. 

But not in these places. 

There are actually markets that are steaming at full speed toward recovery. But with home prices still severely depressed, compared to 2006 levels, many properties remain ripe for the taking. 

Keep clicking to see some of the best homes (as determined by Realtor.com) for sale in some of the hottest markets.

Year-Over-Year Median List Price Appreciation: 8.04 percent
Year-Over-Year Inventory Change: -47.36 percent

Home Location: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Price: $11.3 million
Beds/Baths: 7/12
Sq. Ft.: 13,282

The quintessential enormous Florida mega-mansion, this home boasts 145 feet of canal waterfront, with quick access to the ocean. Its backyard has a pool and hot tub, a full service concrete dock, and an outdoor dining area with a summer kitchen.

See the listing for more details, or see more homes for sale in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Built in 2009, the home features all state-of-the art appliances. The kitchen has an oversize  center island, a walk-in pantry and a separate butler’s pantry. The master suite features a sitting area, two walk-in closets and two master bathrooms.

See the listing for more details, or see more homes for sale in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Some other noteworthy features: an elevator, wine room, library, and a club room with a wetbar adjacent to the home theater.

See the listing for more details. See more homes for sale in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Year-Over-Year Median List Price Appreciation: 6.38 percent
Year-Over-Year Inventory Change: -32.40 percent

Home Location: Jacksonville, Fla.
Price: $5.9 million
Beds/Baths: 4/7
Sq. Ft.: 10,000

It’s not a true Florida mansion if it doesn’t have private waterfront access. This property sits on the St. Johns River, and has boat access to the ocean.

See the listing for more details, or see more homes for sale in Jacksonville, Fla.

The gated estate includes a large front courtyard and enormous backyard with a pool and gazebo. There’s also exclusive river access via a private pier, complete with boathouse and boatlift.

See the listing for more details, or see more homes for sale in Jacksonville, Fla.

The four-bedroom house comes complete with an atrium, a workshop, vaulted ceilings, and was extensively renovated in 1990 and updated in 2008.

See the listing for more details, or see more homes for sale in Jacksonville, Fla.

Year-Over-Year Median List Price Appreciation: 13.18 percent
Year-Over-Year Inventory Change: -27.31 percent

Home Location: Washington, D.C.
Price: $2,895,000
Beds/Baths: 6/7
Sq. Ft.: 7,697

This newly built, never-before-occupied home is located in the highly sought after Phillips Park community in Washington, D.C. It was built with energy-saving in mind, with Energy Star appliances, high-performance windows, insulated doors, energy efficient heating and cooling systems, and water-saving plumbing.

See the listing for more details, or see more homes for sale in Washington, D.C.

This top-of-the-line house has four finished levels, with a wraparound porch providing dramatic views.

See the listing for more details, or see more homes for sale in Washington, D.C.

Year-Over-Year Median List Price Appreciation: 8.58 percent
Year-Over-Year Inventory Change: -29.15 percent

Home Location: University Park, Texas
Price: $2,995,000
Beds/Baths: 5/7
Sq. Ft.: 6,561

This classic five-bedroom home with a stone exterior has some interesting and unique features. It has a two-story library, an Old World pizza oven, a wine vault, and an outdoor loggia with built-in grill.

See the listing for more details, or see more homes for sale in University Park, Texas.

It’s ideal for a growing family, being just walking distance to the local elementary school.

See the listing for more details, or see more homes for sale in University Park, Texas.

Year-Over-Year Median List Price Appreciation: 13.34 percent
Year-Over-Year Inventory Change: -26.30 percent

Home Location: Punta Gorda, Fla.
Price: $2,999,000
Beds/Baths: 4/5
Sq. Ft.: 5,123

Another waterfront stunner with access to Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico. Its double lot has over 250 feet of waterfront, a 14,000-pound boatlift, and is equipped for endless entertainment.

See the listing for more details, or see more homes for sale in Punta Gorda, Fla.

There is a tiki bar with summer kitchen; a pool with a large, beautiful waterfall and a spa; two wrap-around decks (one on each floor); and the second floor deck has its own hot tub. There’s also a sound system wired throughout the house and lanai, which is also wired for a TV.

See the listing for more details, or see homes for sale in Punta Gorda, Fla.

Inside, you’ll find four bedrooms, five bathrooms, and a gourmet eat-in kitchen with wood cabinets, granite countertops, and a breakfast bar. Its upstairs loft has a wet bar and a pool table.

See the listing for more details, or see more homes for sale in Punta Gorda, Fla.

Year-Over-Year Median List Price Appreciation: 11.92 percent
Year-Over-Year Inventory Change: -39.79 percent

Home Location: Tampa, Fla.
Price: $2,995,000
Beds/Baths: 6/6
Sq. Ft.: 5,520

This waterfront view home has a two-story grand foyer, which features a distinctive staircase with limestone balustrades.

See the listing for more details, or see more homes for sale in Tampa, Fla.

Its banquet-size dining room is perfect for entertaining, and its extreme kitchen is a chef’s dream. It features a Sub-Zero refrigerator, a Sub-Zero two-drawer freezer, large double oven, two dishwashers, ice maker, level-5 granite counters, a chef’s special area for preparing meals, and a walk-in appliance closet. And all with spectacular water views.

See the listing for more details, or see more homes for sale in Tampa, Fla.

The master suite has French doors leading to a private terrace with exquisite views of Old Tampa Bay. The backyard has a two-tiered pool and spa, and also features a dock.

See the listing for more details, or see more homes for sale in Tampa, Fla.

This top-of-the-line house has four finished levels, with a wraparound porch providing dramatic views.

See the listing for more details, or see more homes for sale in Washington, D.C.

Its large kitchen offers plenty of granite counter surfaces, and state-of-the-art appliances. Enjoy views of the bay from the breakfast nook or the formal dining room.

See the listing for more details
, or see more homes for sale in Sarasota, Fla.

With 14-foot ceilings, this house offers a wide-open feel, ideal for sunny Florida weather. Its backyard is perfect for lounging and enjoying a relaxing dip in the pool.

See the listing for more details, or see more homes for sale in Sarasota, Fla.

Year-Over-Year Median List Price Appreciation: 12.95 percent
Year-Over-Year Inventory Change: -30.88 percent

Home Location: Lakeland, Fla.
Price: $1.6 million
Beds/Baths: 4/6
Sq. Ft.: 5,552

A brick driveway ushers visitors into 5,552 square feet of interior space, shielded behind a grand stone-and-stucco exterior on this 0.71-acre property.  

See the listing for more details, or see other homes for sale in Lakeland, Fla.

In the home's foyer, stone columns reach to soaring ceilings. The ceilings rise even higher in its family room, which has a granite fireplace and remote-controlled blinds. The home's pool area has a swim-up wet bar and includes 1,300 square feet of imported stone. 

See the listing for more details, or see other homes for sale in Lakeland, Fla.

The interior features coffered and vaulted ceilings, custom wainscotting and travertine floors. 

See the listing for more details, or see other homes for sale in Lakeland, Fla.

Year-Over-Year Median List Price Appreciation: 18.27
Year-Over-Year Inventory Change: -27.61

Home Location: Fort Myers, Fla.
Price: $2.495 million
Beds/Baths: 5/7
Sq. Ft.: 5,027

Decked out in the finest finishes, this home offers stunning water views and superior craftsmanship. 

See the listing for more details, or see other homes for sale in Fort Myers, Fla.

The home's waterfront is visible through a frame of arched, leaded windows. There are two master suits in the residence, both of which boast their own private lanais.

See the listing for more details, or see other homes for sale in Fort Myers, Fla.

Facing the water's edge, the rear of the home features a courtyard and veranda outfitted with a summer kitchen and fireplace.

See the listing for more details, or see other homes for sale in Fort Myers, Fla.

Year-Over-Year Median List Price Appreciation: 7.07 percent
Year-Over-Year Inventory Change: -48.35 percent

Home Location: Oakland, Calif.
Price: $2.2 million
Beds/Baths: 4/5
Sq. Ft.: 3,717

Oakland's price appreciation over the last year has been relatively modest compared to some of our other picks. But the market's rapidly clearing inventory identifies the area as a promising investment opportunity. From its hillside perch in Oakland, this Tuscan-style stunner presides over San Francisco Bay. The interior features custom finishes, Venetian plaster, pecan hardwood floors and vaulted ceilings. 

See the listing for more details, or see other homes for sale in Oakland, Calif.

The home's open-floor plan encompasses a gourmet kitchen with marble countertops, ample cabinetry and top-of-the-line appliances. 

See the listing for more details, or see other homes for sale in Oakland, Calif.

And its covered veranda offers panoramas of San Francisco Bay. 

See the listing for more details, or see other homes for sale in Oakland, Calif.

Year-Over-Year Median List Price Appreciation: 14.34 percent
Year-Over-Year Inventory Change: -34.16 percent

Home Location: Naples, Fla. 
Price: $2.997 million
Beds/Baths: 4/7
Sq. Ft.: 5,076

This palm tree-lined home nestles into a .60-acre lot blanketed with lush landscaping. Despite rising listing prices in the area, this home just got a price cut, with its ask now just under $3 million.

See the listing for more details, or see other homes for sale in Naples, Fla.

The home boasts a cavernous great room that stares out at the nearby lake through floor-to-ceiling windows with massive draperies.

See the listing for more details, or see other homes for sale in Naples, Fla.

Behind the house is a lagoon-like pool surrounded by a brick patio and manicured trees and plants. 

See the listing for more details, or see other homes for sale in Naples, Fla.

Year-Over-Year Median List Price Appreciation: 17.53 percent
Year-Over-Year Inventory Change: -36.87 percent

Home Location: Boise, Idaho
Price: $2.325 million
Beds/Baths: 4/5
Sq. Ft.: 6,258

Boise's certainly a bright spot on today's sometimes-gloomy housing horizon, and if you dip into its sizzling market, you can bet on bagging a lot more space than you would in many coastal cities. That's the case with this Spanish-style, stucco beauty, which, beyond its 5.85-acre plot and 6,258-square-foot interior, offers elaborate finishes and decor. 

See the listing for more details, or see other homes for sale in Boise, Idaho

Encased by a stuccoed, Old World exterior, the interior offers a wide array of amenities, including a ladder-equipped library that smacks of erudition. 

See the listing for more details, or see other homes for sale in Boise, Idaho

And here's a taste of the home's byzantine finishes: An elaborate mural that appears to portray some divine scene adorns the walls of the home's living room. 

See the listing for more details, or see other homes for sale in Boise, Idaho

Year-Over-Year Median List Price Appreciation: 11.54 percent
Year-Over-Year Inventory Change: -41.58 percent

Home Location: Orlando, Fla.
Price: $3 million
Beds/Baths: 5/7
Sq. Ft.: 6,999

Orlando clocks in at a third on our list of the hottest markets out there. In the fast-recovering city sits this beautifully manicured property. The stone-built home is just over 10 years old and commands 1.27 acres of verdant landscape. 

See the listing for more details, or see other homes for sale in Orlando, Fla. 

The home's open-floor plan sprawls nearly 7,000 square feet, and features airy spaces like this pool table-equipped living area. 

See the listing for more details, or see other homes for sale in Orlando, Fla. 

Amenities await wherever you go on this luxury property. Pictured here is a wine bar complemented by one of the home's pool tables. Outside there's a pool, boat ramp, slip and dock. Community amenities include a fishing pier, fitness center, golf course, playground and tennis courts. 

See the listing for more details, or see other homes for sale in Orlando, Fla. 

Year-Over-Year Median List Price Appreciation: 24.32 percent
Year-Over-Year Inventory Change: -48.03 percent

Home Location: Miami Beach, Fla. 
Price: $3 million
Beds/Baths: 2/2
Sq. Ft.: 1,332

While foreclosure-saturated Florida has been walloped by the housing crash, the Miami-area market still costs a pretty penny per square foot. And considering that the market is really starting to heat up, local turf is not about to get any less expensive. If you're in a position to pony up $3 million, you can bag this swanky apartment

See the listing for more details, or see other homes for sale in the Miami area

The home features an expansive balcony with outdoor kitchen that overlooks the complex's resort-size pool.

See the listing for more details, or see other homes for sale in the Miami area

Year-Over-Year Median List Price Appreciation: 26.94 percent
Year-Over-Year Inventory Change: -48.04 percent

Home Location: Phoenix
Price: $5.995 million
Beds/Baths: 6/8
Sq. Ft.: 11,039

This French chateau rose shortly after the onset of the housing meltdown, and almost undoubtedly has seen its value tumble over the last few years in Phoenix's hard-hit real estate market. 

But days ahead might be brighter for this 11,039-square-foot behemoth. Phoenix, like some of the other hardest-hit markets, is mounting a furious comeback. Realtor.com says prices have shot up nearly 27 percent in the last year. 

See the listing for more details, or see other homes for sale in Phoenix.

The home's interior features coffered ceilings, dark wood flooring, custom millwork and a gourmet kitchen with zinc and granite countertops. 

See the listing for more details, or see other homes for sale in Phoenix.

The home's rear has a covered patio with fireplace that looks out on the property's expansive pool. Some of the home's notable amenities: a recording studio, spa, four-car garage, wine room, theater, guesthouse and giant master suite. 

See the listing for more details, or see other homes for sale in Phoenix.

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