Mortgage rates fall to another record low

Friday, October 15, 2010; 8:17 PM

Rates on 30-year mortgages fell this week to 4.19 percent, the lowest level in decades. They were pushed down by lower Treasury bond yields. Investors are buying up Treasury bonds in anticipation of a move by the Federal Reserve designed to lower mortgage rates and yields on corporate debt.

As a result, the average rate for 30-year fixed loans dropped to the lowest level on records dating back to 1971, mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday. It's down from 4.27 percent last week.

The average rate on 15-year fixed loans fell to 3.62 percent, the lowest on records dating back to 1991. Rates on five-year adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 3.47 percent, the same as the previous week. Rates on one-year adjustable-rate mortgages rose to an average of 3.43 percent from 3.4 percent.

Rates have mostly fallen since spring as investors shifted money into the safety of Treasury bonds. That demand lowers their yields, which mortgage rates tend to track. The 30-year mortgage rate was 5.08 percent at the beginning of April. The 15-year rate was 4.39 percent.

Low rates haven't helped the struggling housing market, which recorded its worst summer in more than a decade.

"It takes an awful lot of confidence to make the decision to buy a house," said Don Rissmiller, chief economist at Strategas Research Partners in New York. "With the historically very high unemployment rate, the confidence hasn't been there."

The Mortgage Bankers Association's applications index increased 15 percent in the week ended Oct. 8, the group said Wednesday. Refinancing jumped 21 percent, the most in four months. Purchase applications fell 8.5 percent.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac collects rates from lenders around the country on Monday through Wednesday of each week. Rates often fluctuate significantly, even within a given day.

The rates do not include add-on fees known as points. One point is equal to 1 percent of the total loan amount. The nationwide fee for loans in Freddie Mac's survey averaged 0.8 a point for 30-year and 1-year mortgages. It averaged 0.7 of a point for 15-year and 0.6 of a point for 5-year mortgages.

- From news services

© 2010 The Washington Post Company