Mortgage rates fall again, 30-year near record low

August 11, 2011 - 10:14 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fixed mortgage rates fell to at or near record lows. That's good news for the few who can afford to buy a home or are able to refinance. But the rates have done little to lift the ailing housing market.

Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate for the 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 4.32 percent this week from 4.39 percent. The 30-year loan hit a record low of 4.17 percent in mid-November.

The average rate on a 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinancing option, fell to a record low of 3.50 percent, from last week's record rate of 3.54 percent.

Mortgage rates tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. A weakening U.S. economy has led many investors to shift money from stocks to bonds, which are seen as safer bets. That has pushed Treasury yields to historic lows.

In theory, low mortgage rates should provide a boost to the troubled housing market. But so far they haven't helped much.

Sales of previously occupied homes fell in June for a third straight month to a seasonally adjusted 4.77 million. The pace is lagging behind the 4.91 million homes sold last year — the fewest since 1997.

New-home sales also declined in June and are trailing last year's sales, which were the worst on records dating back nearly half a century.

Many people can't take advantage of the low mortgage rates. Banks are insisting on higher credit scores and larger down payments from applicants. Others have too little equity invested in their homes to qualify for loans.

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

The average rate on a five-year adjustable-rate mortgage fell to 3.13 percent, its lowest level on records that go back to January 2005. Last week's reading of 3.18 percent also was a record low.

The average rate for one-year adjustable-rate loans plunged to 2.89 percent from 3.02 percent last week. That's a record low dating back to 1984.

The rates do not include extra fees known as points. One point is equal to 1 percent of the total loan amount.

The average fees for the 30-year and 15-year fixed loans was 0.7 point and the five-year and one-year adjustable-rate loans was 0.5 point.