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Freddie Mac: Average 30-year mortgage rate eases to 3.38%

January 17, 2013|By E. Scott Reckard
  • Freddie Mac's weekly survey showed a slight decline in the 30-year mortgage rate.
Freddie Mac's weekly survey showed a slight decline in the 30-year… (Pablo Martinez Monsivais…)

Mortgage rates fluttered slightly above their record lows this week, with lenders offering 30-year fixed home loans at an average 3.38% compared to 3.4% last week, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. said in its latest survey.

The typical rate for a 15-year home loan was unchanged at 2.65%, the government-backed finance firm, commonly known as Freddie Mac, said Thursday. Borrowers would have paid 0.7% of the loan amount in upfront lender fees and points to obtain the rates.  

With rates so low, any hint of inflation might send them higher, but there’s been no recent sign of that occurring, said Freddie Mac’s chief economist, Frank Nothaft.

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The producer price index rose 0.1% between November and December, which Nothaft noted was below analysts’ consensus expectations, and the consumer price index was unchanged. For the year as a whole, consumer prices rose just 1.7% in 2012, about half as much as in 2011.

Rates have fluctuated up and down the past two weeks amid uncertainties over how the government will deal with tax rates and the national debt, said Brad Seibel, vice president and director of home lending at Fremont Bank, a Northern California bank that has been increasing its mortgage lending in Southern California.

“I think the overall financial uncertainty, fiscal cliffs and debt ceilings, has encouraged a number of consumers who have been waiting for the bottom to move forward so they don't miss the opportunity,” Seibel said.  “The purchase market remains strong with an inventory shortage for the more desirable properties." 

Freddie Mac, based in McLean, Va., asks mortgage lenders early each week about the terms they are offering to borrowers with good credit and 20% down payments, or 20% home equity if they are refinancing.

Solid borrowers often can find slightly better rates if they shop around, and it's possible to lower the mortgage rate by paying additional discount points to lenders when the loan is taken out. The survey does not include third-party services that borrowers usually pay, such as appraisals and title insurance.

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