WASHINGTON — U.S. long-term mortgage rates held steady this week for the second straight week, sticking at their lowest levels in nine months after six weeks of decline.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on the benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage was unchanged from last week at 4.45 percent. Rates remain above last year’s levels, however. The key 30-year rate averaged 4.15 percent a year ago.
The average rate this week for 15-year, fixed-rate loans held at 3.88 percent.
The decline in home borrowing rates in recent months has been a spur to prospective homebuyers.
The easing of rates came amid steep declines in the stock market and tumbling interest rates on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note — which influences long-term mortgage rates. The decline in rates could help boost home sales, which stumbled last year as higher borrowing costs eroded affordability.
Home purchases in many areas of the country have dipped, and price gains have slowed. Yet a rising number of middle-class Americans are finding that home ownership is unaffordable.
In addition to rising mortgage rates, increases in home prices have been exceeding paychecks. And at a target price that families with a median income could afford, fewer homes are for sale. In the past year, the availability of homes that a middle-class family could buy has declined in 86 percent of the largest metro areas, according to an analysis of 49 cities released Wednesday by the real estate brokerage Redfin.
However, given the recent decline in mortgage rates and with the economy remaining on solid footing, “We expect the decline in home sales to moderate or even reverse over the next couple of months,” Freddie Mac chief economist Sam Khater said.
To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week.
The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates.
The average fee on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages was unchanged this week at 0.4 point. The fee on 15-year mortgages also held steady at 0.4 point.
The average rate for five-year adjustable-rate mortgages rose to 3.90 percent from 3.87 percent last week. The fee was stable at 0.3 point.