WASHINGTON -- Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages fell to fresh record lows this week, a trend that has helped the housing market start to recover this year.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says that the average rate on the 30-year loan dipped to 3.34 percent, the lowest on records dating back to 1971. That's down from 3.40 percent last week and the previous record low of 3.36 percent reached last month.
The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage also dropped to 2.65 percent. That's down from 2.69 percent last week and also a new record.
The average rate on the 30-year loan has been below 4 percent all year. It has fallen further since the Federal Reserve started buying mortgage bonds in September to encourage more borrowing and spending.
Low mortgage rates have helped boost sales of newly built and previously occupied homes this year. Home prices are also increasing, and builders are more confident and starting work on more new homes.
Lower rates have also persuaded more people to refinance. That usually leads to lower monthly mortgage payments and more spending. Consumer spending drives nearly 70 percent of economic activity.
Still, the housing market has a long way to a full recovery. And many people are unable to take advantage of the low rates, either because they can't qualify for stricter lending rules or they can't afford the larger down payments that many banks require.
To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country on Monday through Wednesday of each week. The average doesn'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 30-year loans was 0.7 point, unchanged from last week. The fee for 15-year loans also remained at 0.7 point.
The average rate on a one-year adjustable-rate mortgage declined to 2.55 percent from 2.59 percent. The fee for one-year adjustable rate loans one-tenth to 0.3 point.
The average rate on a five-year adjustable-rate mortgage ticked up to 2.74 percent from 2.73 percent. The fee was unchanged at 0.6 point.
This beautiful condo has sweeping, open spaces -- so much so that you'll feel like you're living in your own detached single-family home! The homeowners association fees have been reduced, according to the listing, and the home juts up against the vast greenery of Forest Park. And not to forget location, location, location: It's only 10 minutes to the downtown area.
Look how much house you can get in Dallas for $4,000 less than the national median home sales price! You're getting almost double the square footage as in the Portland home. This spacious pad has been updated, the listing says, and includes a tiled kitchen, large backyard and spacious patio.
It "starts with the curb appeal on this professionally landscaped corner lot," the listing says. There's a finished basement with an extra bedroom and bathroom if you need more living space. The home has a huge backyard with two patios, a storage shed and a privacy fence. Inside, there's an open, flowing floor plan.
Location:New York Price: $189,999 Beds/baths: 2/2 Sq. ft.: 1,100
Hey, it's New York. While prices around the national median home price might buy you some pretty significant homes in a lot of cities around the country, that can't necessarily be said for the Big Apple. But still, this co-op apartment is a pretty good deal for what's available at this price point in Manhattan. It has a decent size with open rooms, and it's in an elevator building -- something not to be taken for granted in New York City! The living room has been converted to include a smaller room that can be used as a third bedroom or office.
Detroit was one of the cities hardest hit by the housing bust, and prices have taken an alarmingly steep dive. Of course, that's not a bad thing for homebuyers. For the national median home price, you can practically buy a mansion in Detroit. This spacious brick Tudor is "move-in ready," according to the listing. The three-floor home has a living room with fireplace and a library with built-ins. There's a finished rec room with a wet bar, a "dance area" and laundry facilities. There is one little catch: Some of the interiors may need updating.
Location:Los Angeles Price: $185,000 Beds/baths: 2/1 Sq. ft.: 676
Recently refurbished, this single-family home has a kitchen with gorgeous granite countertops, an updated bathroom and a large lot with front and rear access to parking. There's also a partially covered garage.
With a separate living and dining room and a den/office, this home is perfect for a first-time buyer, the listing says. The roof is fairly new, and the backyard is completely fenced in for ultimate privacy.
A "perfect starter home," the listing says, this house has an open floor plan, a main-floor office and a large kitchen. The home is owned by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, so the buyer must take it as-is.