30-year mortgages rise to 3.71 percent
WASHINGTON — Average rates on fixed mortgages rose this week, the first increase in seven weeks. But mortgage rates remain near historic lows, boosting prospects for home sales this year.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year loan increased to 3.71 percent. That’s up from 3.67 percent last week, the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.
The average rate on the 15-year mortgage, a popular refinancing option, rose to 2.98 percent. That’s up from 2.94 percent last week, also a record low.
The rate on the 30-year loan has been below 4 percent since early December. Low rates are a key reason the housing industry is showing modest signs of a recovery this year.
In April, sales of both previously occupied homes and new homes rose near two-year highs. Builders are gaining more confidence in the market, breaking ground on more homes and requesting more permits to build single-family homes later this year.
Low rates could also provide some help to the economy if more people refinance. When people refinance at lower rates, they pay less interest on their loans and have more money to spend.
Still, the pace of home sales remains well below healthy levels. Economists say it could be years before the market is fully healed.
Many people are still having difficulty qualifying for home loans or can’t afford larger down payments required by banks.