WASHINGTON (AP) — Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages fell this week for a fifth straight week. The spring home-buying season has started slowly, but it may be aided by the low rates.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate for a 30-year loan edged down to 4.12 percent from 4.14 percent last week. The average for the 15-year mortgage declined to 3.21 percent from 3.25 percent.
Warmer weather has yet to boost home-buying as it normally does. Rising prices and higher interest rates beginning in mid-2013 have made homes less affordable for would-be buyers. At the same time, a limited supply of homes is available to buy. New construction has focused increasingly on rental apartments, instead of single-family homes.
Mortgage rates still are nearly a full percentage point above record lows reached about a year ago.
U.S. home prices rose in March, data released Tuesday showed, but the gains are decelerating as fewer Americans can afford to buy.
The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 12.4 percent in March compared with 12 months earlier. While healthy, that rate of growth slowed from both February and January.
And more Americans signed contracts to buy homes in April than in the prior month, but the pace of buying is still weaker than last year, according to data issued Thursday by the National Association of Realtors.
The increase in mortgage rates over the past year or so was driven in part by speculation that the Federal Reserve would reduce its bond purchases, which have helped keep long-term interest rates low. Indeed, the Fed has announced four declines in its monthly bond purchases since December because the economy appears to be steadily healing. But the Fed has no plans to raise its benchmark short-term rate from record lows.
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