Mortgage rates hit their highest level since September 1996 as the interest rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages rose to 8.26 percent.

The average interest rate for the week ended Jan. 21 was up from 8.18 percent last week, according to a weekly survey released Thursday by Freddie Mac.

The last time rates were higher than 8.26 percent was Sept. 13, 1996, when rates on the 30-year mortgage hit 8.28 percent.

Fifteen-year mortgages, often used for refinancing, also were up this week with an average rate of 7.86 percent this week, up from the average rate of 7.78 percent last week.

On one-year adjustable-rate mortgages, lenders were asking an average initial rate of 6.56 percent this week, down from 6.61 percent the previous week.

"Inflation remains an issue and will keep upward pressure on mortgage rates at least until the Federal Reserve meets in February," said Robert Van Order, Freddie Mac's chief economist.

Many economists believe the Fed will increase rates by a quarter of a percentage point in February to slow economic growth. The central bank raised rates three times last year.

Separately, the Mortgage Bankers Association of America said that mortgage loan applications for the week ending Jan. 14 increased 18.8 percent from the previous week and were down 39.9 percent compared with the same week last year.

IN THE NEWS . . . The Association of District of Columbia Condominium Boards newsletter is now online at www.eneighbors.com/adccb. The Centreville company eNeighbors will host any condo association's site free. For more information, contact Brad Thompson at 703-787-7200 or by e-mail at thompson@eneighbors.com.

PERSONNEL . . . The District-based National Multi Housing Council confirmed these officers of the board of directors to serve two-year terms, beginning in 2000: Leonard W. Wood, chairman; Douglas Crocker II, vice chairman; and Jonathan L. Kempner, president . . . Walker & Dunlop, a commercial real estate firm with headquarters in Bethesda, appointed Charles E. Garner II senior vice president responsible for the equity brokerage and institutional sales division. . . . Consolidated Engineering Services Inc., a diversified building technology services firm based in Arlington, appointed Nicholas E. Fioravante vice president of Engineering Consulting. He will also oversee AAS Environmental Inc., a recently acquired affiliate, which specializes in facility-related environmental engineering . . . Waterford Development Inc., a residential developer based in Reston, appointed Kimberly Caswell director of sales and marketing.

AWARDS . . . Robert Boulter of Jubilee Enterprise, a nonprofit community development organization in the District, was one of six recipients of the 1999 inaugural James A. Johnson Community Fellowship, designed to reward and recognize outstanding leaders and promote innovation in the affordable housing and community development field. Each recipient received a $70,000 grant and an educational travel and study stipend of $20,000 to pursue a self-designed, professional-development program for one year, ending July 2000 . . . The Points of Light Foundation named Monsignor Ralph J. Kuehner, founder of Victory Housing Inc. of Bethesda, a private, nonprofit housing development organization that serves the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, recipient of the Daily Point of Light Award for Jan. 20.

UPCOMING EVENTS . . . The Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors will sponsor continuing education courses this week at their Baltimore area office, 1306 Bellona Ave., Lutherville, Md.: Monday--Lead Paint Regulations, 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.; Tuesday--Creating Leverage for Buyers, 1 to 4 p.m.; Friday--Legislative Update, 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The cost for each class is $30 for members and $60 for nonmembers. An additional $5 is collected at the door for all classes. For information, call 410-337-7200.

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