WASHINGTON – Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages rose this week but stayed near their historic lows. Cheaper mortgages have helped the economy by spurring more home-buying and refinancing.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate for the 30-year loan increased to 3.51 percent from 3.42 percent last week. That's still near the average of 3.31 percent reached in November, the lowest on records dating to 1971.
The average on the 15-year loan rose to 2.69 percent. That's up from 2.61 percent last week, which was the lowest on records going back to 1991.
Low mortgage rates have helped sustained the housing recovery that began last year. Home sales and construction are up from a year ago, and prices are rising in most U.S. markets.
Home prices are rising in part because more buyers are bidding on a limited supply of homes for sale.
On Thursday, the Commerce Department reported that U.S. builders started fewer homes in April than March. But most of the decline was in apartment construction, which tends to vary sharply from month to month.
And applications for new construction reached a five-year peak last month. That suggests the housing revival will be sustained.
To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country on Monday through Wednesday each week. The average doesn't include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.
The average fee for 30-year mortgages was unchanged from last week at 0.7 point. The fee for 15-year loans also was steady at 0.7.
The average rate on a one-year adjustable-rate mortgage rose to 2.55 percent from 2.53 percent last week. The fee for one-year adjustable-rate loans remained at 0.4 point.
The average rate on a five-year adjustable-rate mortgage increased to 2.62 percent from 2.58 percent. The fee was unchanged at 0.5 point.