Mortgage applications rise as loan costs hold steady

Friday, March 11, 2011; 4:06 PM

Mortgage interest rates were little changed from last week, keeping borrowing costs steady as demand for home loans increases.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed loan rose to 4.88 percent this week from 4.87 percent last week, according to Freddie Mac. The average 15-year rate was unchanged at 4.15 percent, the mortgage-finance company said in a statement.

Adjustable-rate mortgages that are fixed for five years averaged 3.73 percent this week, up from 3.72 percent. Rates on one-year adjustables averaged 3.21 percent, down from 3.23 percent last week.

Mortgage applications rose 16 percent in the week that ended March 4, the biggest gain since June, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's index. The group's measure of purchase applications increased 13 percent and its refinancing gauge jumped 17 percent.

The median price for an existing home fell to $158,800 in January, the lowest since 2002, according to the National Association of Realtors. Home sales rose 22 percent from October to January, the realty group said.

This week's rise in the 30-year mortgage rate was the first in four weeks. Rates began climbing from a record low of 4.17 percent in the week that ended Nov. 11 and reached a 10-month high of 5.05 percent in February. The rate's decline since then has pushed the monthly payment for a $300,000 mortgage down to about $1,589, from $1,620.

Freddie Mac's average rates do not include prepaid interest, known as points. Each point equals 1 percent of the loan amount. This week, there was an average 0.7 of a point charged on 30-year and 15-year fixed loans. There was an average 0.6 of a point on five-year hybrid ARMs, and 0.5 of a point on one-year ARMs.

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