Mortgage rates sank this week toward record lows, with lenders offering 30-year fixed home loans to solid borrowers at an average 3.41%, down from 3.43% a week ago, Freddie Mac’s weekly report showed. It was the lowest rate the survey has recorded in three months.
The typical rate for a 15-year fixed mortgage edged down from 2.65% last week to 2.64%, according to the report Thursday by the government-backed finance company. Borrowers would have paid lenders 0.7% of the loan amount on average to obtain the rates.
The survey showed that the average 30-year rate rose to 3.63% in mid-March after bottoming out in November at 3.31%.
Signs of weakness in consumer spending are keeping rates low, since that suggests inflation remains at bay, said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.
Retail sales contracted in March for the second time in three months, Nothaft said. A University of Michigan consumer sentiment index fell to its lowest level since July, snapping a streak of three consecutive gains.
The trend reminded analysts of 2011 and 2012, when the economy got off to strong starts before giving out to sub-par growth as summer approached.
"We are in a weak patch, at the very least," said Keith Gumbinger, vice president of mortgage data tracker HSH.com, where a separate survey also showed fixed rates falling this week.
"However, falling gasoline prices should help add a little punch to consumer spending over time,” Gumbinger said. “For the moment, the dip in rates means ongoing opportunities to refinance and has arrived just in time for the spring home-buying season."
Freddie Mac asks lenders each week about the terms they are offering to borrowers with solid credit scores, 20% down payments and the financial ability to make regular loan payments.
Borrowers often obtain lower rates by making additional payments known as discount points when they take out loans. The Freddie Mac survey doesn’t include third-party costs such as those for appraisals and title insurance.