WASHINGTON — The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage was nearly unchanged this week after rising sharply last week.
Freddie Mac said Thursday that the rate on the 30-year loan edged down to 4.11 percent from 4.12 percent last week. The week before, it fell to 3.94 percent. That’s the lowest rate ever, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.
The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage ticked up to 3.38 percent from 3.37 percent. It hit a record-low of 3.26 percent two weeks ago.
Low rates have done little to revive the lagging housing market, which has struggled with weak sales and declining prices. Many can’t qualify for loans because their credit is weak or they can’t afford a down-payment. Most of those who can afford to refinance already have.
The number of Americans who bought previously occupied homes fell in September and is on pace to match last year’s dismal figures — the worst in 13 years.
The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that home sales fell 3 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.91 million homes. That’s below the 6 million that economists say is consistent with a healthy housing market.
Sales of new homes are on pace to finish the year as the lowest on records dating back a half-century. Prices have been sliding because the market is flooded with houses being sold in foreclosure.
Many borrowers are unable to take advantage of the low rates because they can’t meet banks’ restrictive lending standards, or are unable to scrape together a down payment.
The low rates have caused a modest boom in refinancing, but that benefit might be wearing off. Most people who can afford to refinance have already locked in rates below 5 percent.
There have been a few modest signs of life for housing. Homebuilders started projects in September at the fastest pace in 17 months, the government said Wednesday. Most of the gain was driven by a surge in volatile apartment construction.
Still, single-family home construction, which represents nearly 70 percent of the market, increased only slightly. And building permits, a gauge of future construction, fell.
The Federal Reserve has been trying to reduce long-term rates by buying longer-dated Treasurys. Mortgage rates tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. Buying by the Fed pulls the yield lower.
The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage fell below 4 percent for the first time in history this month, just as the 10-year yield hit its own record low. Rates have edged up since then.
Rates have been below 5 percent for all but two weeks in the past year. Just five years ago they were closer to 6.5 percent.
The low rates being offered don’t include extra fees, known as points, which many borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount. The average fees for the 30-year and 15-year loans were unchanged at 0.8 point.
To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country Monday through Wednesday of each week.
The average rate on a five-year adjustable-rate mortgage fell to 3.01 percent from 3.06 percent. It hit a record-low of 2.96 percent two weeks ago.
The average rate for the one-year adjustable-rate mortgage rose to 2.94 percent from 2.90 percent. It fell last month to 2.81 percent, the lowest on records dating back to 1984.
The average fees on the one-year and five-year loan were unchanged at 0.6 point.