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Mortgage rates fall for first time in five weeks

Mortgage rates for fixed-rate home loans fell for the first time in five weeks, decreasing borrowing costs as all-cash buyers make up a growing share of the housing market.

The average 30-year rate dropped to 4.80 percent this week from 4.91 percent last week, according to Freddie Mac. The 15-year rate averaged 4.02 percent, down from 4.13 percent a week ago, the mortgage-finance company said.

Rates on hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages that are fixed for the first five years averaged 3.61 percent, down from 3.78 percent. Rates on one-year ARMs averaged 3.16 percent, down from 3.25 percent last week.

The housing market is under pressure from unemployment near 9 percent, stricter loan rules and mounting foreclosures. Sales are strongest for homes below $100,000, reflecting increased demand from investors, Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said Wednesday.

Sales of existing homes increased 3.7 percent in March, with all-cash deals accounting for 35 percent of transactions, the highest since monthly tracking began in August 2008, according to Yun. Distressed properties, which include foreclosures and short sales, made up 40 percent of all deals.

Mortgage applications climbed 5.3 percent in the week ended April 15, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. The group’s measure of refinancing gained 2.7 percent, while its index of purchases rose 10 percent.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed loan is below where it was last year at this time, when it averaged 5.07 percent, according to Freddie Mac. It hit a record low of 4.17 percent in November.

The rates reported by Freddie Mac are accompanied by points, a form of interest prepaid at closing. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount. Loans for 30 and 15 years carried 0.7 points, on average, while five- and one-year ARMs carried 0.6 points.

—From news services

4.91% Last week 4.80% This week

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