Mortgage rates fall to fresh lows, Freddie Mac says

Mortgage rates have set record lows for the eighth time in nine weeks, and the bargain-basement rates are prompting homeowners to file the most home-refinancing applications in 15 months.

The average rate offered on a 30-year fixed home loan fell this week to 4.42%, down from 4.44% last week, Freddie Mac reported Thursday. The latest figure is the lowest since the giant mortgage buyer began its rate survey in 1971.

Freddie Mac’s weekly survey asks lenders what they are offering a solid-credit borrower with home equity of at least 20% — or, for a home purchase, a down payment of at least 20%. Along with the rates offered, lenders on average were charging 0.7% of the loan amount in upfront fees.

Savvy borrowers with strong credit and down payments often can get slightly better deals if they shop around.

The average rate this week on 15-year loans edged down to a fresh record low of 3.9% from 3.92% last week, with upfront fees averaging 0.6%, according to Freddie Mac, which began tracking 15-year rates in 1991.

Average start rates on variable mortgages were unchanged this week, holding at record lows, Freddie Mac said.

The rock-bottom interest costs boosted refinance activity last week to its highest level since May 2009, according to a weekly report on loan applications from the Mortgage Bankers Assn.

But demand for loans to purchase homes remained sluggish, as it has been since federal home-purchase tax credits expired in the spring. Just 18.6% of last week’s mortgage applications were filed to buy homes, the trade group said.