With 30-year mortgage rates still averaging a rock-bottom 4%, applications to purchase homes rose after Thanksgiving to the highest level in four months.
Freddie Mac's weekly report on home lender offerings, released Thursday, showed the typical rate for a 30-year loan at 3.99%, the sixth straight week at or slightly below 4%. Last year at this time, the 30-year fixed loan averaged 4.61%.
Fifteen-year fixed-rate home loans, a popular option for people refinancing homes, averaged 3.27%, down from last week's 3.3%. A year ago, the 15-year loan averaged 3.96%, Freddie Mac said.
The big government-backed mortgage buyer asks lenders what rates they are offering to borrowers with good credit and 20% down payments or 20% equity if they are refinancing. The rates are for loans of up to $417,500 with the borrowers paying about 0.75% of the loan amount in lender fees and points.
The typical mortgage rate for larger "jumbo" loans was running about a third of a percentage point higher, according to another report this week, this one from the Mortgage Bankers Assn. Jumbo loans are priced higher because lenders can't sell them to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the other big government-sponsored mortgage buyer.
Offering a bit of hope for housing at a time when foreclosures are drawing angry protests and government investigations, the mortgage bankers said applications for loans to buy houses reached the highest level since early August.
Refinances still made up about three-quarters of all applications for home loans, however.
-- E. Scott Reckard
Photo: Occupy LA protests a foreclosure auction in Norwalk. Credit: Genaro Molina /Los Angeles Times