Freddie Mac's weekly survey pegged the rate for a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage at a record low of 3.21%. Loans fixed for five years before becoming adjustable also set a new record, with an average start rate of 2.86%
The survey, released each Thursday, asks lenders to report rates they are offering to well-qualified borrowers who pay about 0.75 of a percentage point in upfront lender fees and discount points. The rates are for loans of up to $417,000.
Freddie has conducted the survey of 30-year loans since 1971, 15-year loans since 1991, and five-year adjustable hybrids since 2005.
The record lows have touched off the latest surge in home refinancing. But while sales of homes increased slightly in California last month, scheduled foreclosure sales have risen sharply and the environment for housing remains rough overall, as Freddie Mac's chief economist, Frank Nothaft, pointed out in announcing the latest survey results.
"In its Dec. 13 monetary policy announcement, the Federal Reserve reiterated the housing market remains depressed," Nothaft wrote. "Over the first nine months of 2012, households lost almost $400 billion in property values, which contributed to a $1.4 trillion reduction in overall net worth.
"In addition, serious delinquency rates (90 or more days delinquent plus foreclosures) on mortgages increased slightly between June 30 and Sept. 30 of the year, breaking a six-quarter consecutive decline, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.”
Photo: Freddie Mac's headquarters in Virginia. Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press