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Mortgage Rates Fall to 3-month Lows

(Associated Press) U.S. long-term mortgage rates fell this week to their lowest level in three months, deepening the incentive for prospective homebuyers although they face eroded affordability as prices continue to climb.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage declined to 3.60% from 3.65% last week. The benchmark rate stood at 4.45% a year ago.

The average rate on a 15-year mortgage eased to 3.04% from 3.09% last week.

Mortgage rates have shown stability in recent months, buoyed by positive economic data, a strong job market and improved sentiment in the housing market.

New data released Wednesday showed that U.S. home sales climbed 3.6% in December, but a record-low inventory of houses on the market has caused prices to surge as affordability is worsening. The National Association of Realtors reported that sales of existing homes rose last month to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.54 million. For all of 2019, 5.34 million homes were sold — matching the 2018 level.

High mortgage rates hurt sales in the first half of 2019, while lower rates boosted purchases in the second half. But the rebound in sales failed to cause more people to put their homes on the market.

Freddie Mac surveys lenders nationwide between Monday and Wednesday each week to compile its mortgage rate figures. The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates.

The average fee on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rose to 0.8 point from 0.7 point last week. The average fee for the 15-year mortgage also increased to 0.8 point from 0.7 point.

The average rate for a five-year adjustable-rate mortgage dropped to 3.28% from 3.39% last week. The fee was unchanged at 0.3 point.

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