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More record lows for mortgage rates?

September 23, 2010 | 10:48 am

Mortgage finance giant Freddie Mac says interest rates for fixed-rate home loans were unchanged for solid borrowers during the week that ended Wednesday.

But other surveys are showing that rates are declining again and hitting all-time lows in reaction to a Federal Reserve statement Tuesday that the markets interpreted as likely to drive down long-term interest rates.

Freddie Mac said Thursday that its national survey showed lenders offering non-jumbo loans at an average 4.37% for a 30-year fixed mortgage and 3.82% for a 15-year fixed loan, identical to the rates in the previous week's survey.

The borrowers would have paid 0.7% of the loan amount to the lenders in upfront origination fees and discount points, Freddie Mac said.

Another take on home loans comes in a report saying the rates offered by lenders have dropped to the lowest level since its survey began in 1985 (the 30-year fixed mortgage averaged 12.31% in Bankrate's first survey, published Sept. 25 of that year).

Bankrate surveys large lenders in 10 major markets and reports typical rates being offered to borrowers with solid credit and 20% down payments or home equity, which is similar to the Freddie Mac standards. However, the lenders in the Bankrate survey are quoting rates for borrowers who pay less to them upfront -- 0.35% of the loan amount.

For those borrowers, the typical rate on a 30-year loan had fallen from 4.54% to an even 4.5% for the week that ended Wednesday, the lowest in the 25-year history of Bankrate's survey. A separate Bankrate overnight survey showed that rate dropping to 4.31% going into Thursday.

Bankrate's weekly survey showed 15-year fixed mortgages averaging 3.96% and jumbo mortgages averaging 5.17%, both also record lows. (Single-family jumbos are those exceeding $729,750 in the coastal counties from Santa Barbara to Orange, $697,500 in San Diego County, and $500,000 in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.)

The website, which surveys rates available through mortgage brokers, said solid borrowers who shop around and pay 0.7% to 1% in upfront fees and points were finding 30-year loans Thursday at an even 4% and 15-year mortgages at 3.5%. It said jumbos for such borrowers were going for 5.125% and 4.625%, respectively.

Any way you look at it, mortgage rates continue to scrape bottom and are likely to continue doing so in the immediate future.

That makes it all the more sobering to think about yet another survey: The Mortgage Bankers Assn. said this week that demand had slipped for both purchase and refinance loans.

Whither housing and the economy?

-- E. Scott Reckard