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Freddie Mac: Mortgage rates down in the basement again

August 4, 2011 |  7:53 am

The typical rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage fell this week to 4.39%, the lowest level since November, according to home finance giant Freddie Mac, while other popular loans were at all-time lows in Freddie's weekly survey of lenders.

While that's welcome news for anyone willing and able to buy or refinance a home, the cause is the sputtering economy, which had investors bailing out of stocks and seeking protection in U.S. Treasury securities.

That trend drove the yield on the 10-year Treasury note to 2.58% Thursday morning -- it had been above 3.7% in February -- and home lending rates followed suit.

FRE-sign-AP-Pablo Martinez Monsivais "The first half of this year was the worst six-month period since the economic recovery began in June 2009," Freddie Mac economist Frank Nothaft said.

He noted that consumer spending fell 0.2% in June, the first decline since September 2009.

The record lows were for 15-year fixed mortgages, a popular option for people refinancing their homes, and for loans with a fixed rate for five years that then become variable. The previous records for these mortgages also were set in November.

Lenders were offering the 15-year loan at an average of 3.54%, down from last week's 3.66% and eclipsing the previous low of 3.57% in the Freddie Mac survey.

The five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 3.18% this week, down from 3.25% a week earlier, which had tied the previous low.

The average offering rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages had briefly dropped below 4.2% in the survey last fall. The 4.39% rate that Freddie reported Thursday was sharply below last week's 4.55%.

Borrowers would have paid less than 1% of the loan amount in upfront lender fees to obtain the rates, Freddie Mac said. Solid borrowers often can find slightly better rates by shopping around, and it's also possible to lower mortgage rates by paying more upfront.

Indeed, experts said this week that it was possible for the lowest-risk borrowers to obtain 30-year home loans with rates fixed at less than 4% -- as long as they were willing to fork over 3% or more of the loan amount in upfront fees and discount points to certain lenders.

The Freddie Mac survey asks lenders what terms they are offering to borrowers with good credit ratings who have 20% down payments or 20% equity in their homes.


U.S. home price up slightly in June

Gold surges toward new record amid economic worries

Homeowners who want to trade up are stuck waiting

--E. Scott Reckard

Photo: Freddie Mac headquarters in McLean, Va. Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais  / Associated Press