Most mortgages slightly lower
By Jeannine Aversa
By Jeannine Aversa
WASHINGTON — Rates on 30-year mortgages as well as for some other home loans dropped this week, a dose of good news for prospective home buyers.
Freddie Mac, a big player in the mortgage business, reported in its nationwide survey released yesterday that rates on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.26 percent, the first drop in five weeks.
That was down from last week's rate of 6.28 percent, which had marked a two-month high.
The decline represents confidence on the part of bond investors — whose actions influence the movements of long-term mortgage rates — that new Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues will be reliable inflation fighters.
"Market confidence that the Fed will continue to keep inflation low kept mortgage rates in check this week," said Frank Nothaft, chief economist at Freddie Mac, the government-chartered organization formally known as the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp.
"Over the long term, we expect mortgage rates will bounce back and forth a bit, remaining near current levels."
Some economists, however, think rates on 30-year mortgages will slowly drift higher, ending the year anywhere from 6.5 percent to 7 percent.
This expectation of higher mortgage rates fits into economists' forecasts that the housing market, which racked up record high sales for five years in a row, will slow this year.
Bernanke and other economists are hoping the slowdown will be smooth and gradual.
Other mortgage rates declined this week.
Rates on 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages, a popular choice for refinancing a home mortgage, averaged 5.89 percent, down from 5.91 percent last week. One-year adjustable rate mortgages dipped to 5.32 percent, compared with 5.36 percent last week.
But rates on five-year hybrid adjustable rate mortgages edged up to 5.96 percent this week, from 5.95 percent last week.
The mortgage rates do not include add-on fees known as points. The 30-year, 15-year and five-year hybrid adjustable each carried a nationwide average fee of 0.6 point this week. The one-year ARM carried an average fee of 0.7 point.
A year ago, 30-year mortgages averaged 5.69 percent, 15-year mortgages stood at 5.22 percent, one-year adjustable-rate mortgages were at 4.16 percent and five-year hybrid adjustable rate mortgages averaged 5.05 percent.
Separately, a Federal Reserve study, released yesterday, said 69.1 percent of families in the U.S. owned a primary residence in 2004. That was up from 67.7 percent in 2001. Analysts credited low mortgages rates with pushing up homeownership rates.
The median value of this principal residence was $160,000 in 2004, up 22 percent from the median value of $131,000 in 2001. The median is the middle point, where half the homes are valued higher and half are lower.
People who saw their homes rise handsomely in value felt more wealthy and more inclined to spend. That spending has supported overall economic activity in the past few years. This year the economy is expected to slow — but still post healthy growth — assuming the housing market slows moderately.