Mortgage rates have fallen as the spring home-buying season begins, with Freddie Mac pegging the average 30-year fixed loan at 4.27% this week, the lowest it has been since early February.
The average for a 15-year fixed mortgage was 3.33% this week, near its low for this year, according to Freddie Mac's survey of lenders released Thursday morning.
The rate for a 30-year loan averaged about 4.5% at the start of the year, more than a percentage point higher than the record lows of 2013 and 2012. Most forecasters predicted rates would continue rising as the Federal Reserve dialed back a bond-buying program designed to keep them low.
At HSH.com, another rate tracker, Vice President Keith Gumbinger said the economy's growth has been "more sideways than upwards," leading investors to pull money out of stocks recently and show more willingness to accept lower interest rates.
"News that rates are closer to recent lows than highs might actually put a few more buyers in the [housing] market this spring," Gumbinger said. "Hopefully, they will find sellers to meet them," a reference to recent shortages in homes on the market.
Freddie Mac asks lenders early each week about the terms they are offering to low-risk borrowers with 20% down payments or equivalent home equity if they are refinancing.
The borrowers would pay less than 1% of the loan amount in fees and discount points to the lenders, and third-party costs such as appraisals and title insurance are not included. Borrowers can lower their rates by paying additional discount points when they obtain the mortgage.