Mortgage Rates Edge Higher; 30-Year at 3.68 Percent, Freddie Mac Says

(Los Angeles Times/TNS) -

Mortgage rates rose slightly this week on mixed economic news, with Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of lenders showing the average rate for a conventional 30-year fixed loan at 3.68 percent, up from 3.65 percent last week.

Lenders were offering 15-year fixed home loans at an average of 2.94 percent, up from 2.92 percent a week earlier, according to the Freddie Mac survey, published Thursday. The start rates for variable mortgages also ticked higher.

It was the sixth week in a row that the widely watched survey showed rates at or below 3.7 percent, a remarkably low level by historical standards. A year ago at this time, the 30-year rate averaged 4.29 percent; 20 years ago it was about 8 percent and 30 years ago about 13 percent.

The rates tend to rise when economic indicators show the economy is heating up, and recent news was mixed, noted Len Kiefer, deputy chief economist at Freddie Mac.

Growth in the first quarter was “paltry” at 0.2 percent, well below expectations, Kiefer said in announcing this week’s survey.

“However, the National Association of Realtors’ pending home sales index rose 1.1 percent in March for the third consecutive month,” he said. “The S&P/Case-Shiller National House Price Index also rose 5 percent in February on a yearly basis.”

Freddie Mac asks lenders early each week about the terms that they are offering to solid borrowers seeking mortgages of up to $417,000 that conform to guidelines for loans guaranteed by Freddie and its sister company, Fannie Mae.

The borrowers would have paid a little more than half of 1 percent of the loan balance in upfront lender fees and discount points to obtain the rates.

Payments for such services as appraisals and title insurance are not included.

The survey provides a consistent gauge of mortgage trends, but actual rates adjust constantly and are influenced by many factors.

The borrowers’ credit histories, income and debt loads affect the rates they may be offered.

Additional factors include whether the borrowers opt for zero-cost loans at higher rates or pay extra to lenders initially to lower the rates.