Friday, December 26, 2008

Lowest Mortgage Interest Rates in 37 Years of Freddie Mac History

Mortgage interest rates plummeted last week, falling to the lowest level in the previous 37 years, setting the record for the lowest 30-year fixed rate interest rate since Freddie Mac began to survey the data in 1971. Rates averaged 5.14% for the week ending December 24, 2008, down from the previous week's low of 5.19%, but more than a full percentage point lower than the previous year's 6.17% average, according to Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac's chief economist.

But does that mean people should phone their local mortgage broker just yet? In order to get these rates, it would require about an 0.8 point payment average. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage would follow close behind, requiring an 0.7 point payment average and ARMs would an average 0.6 point payment requirement. Considering that one point is equivalent to one percent of the mortgage amount, and housing prices in some areas remain inflated, this end up being quite a bit for hopeful home buyers. But others are currently searching for mortgage refinancing assistance, if even to find out how they can benefit from the current low interest rates, perhaps find their way out from under their high ARMs, and get into a more reliable 30-year fixed-rate mortgage instead.

But as mortgage rates tumble, the number of mortgage applications is climbing high. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reports that mortgage applications have skyrocketed 48% upwards to 1,245.4, which is the highest since 2003. Banks and mortgage firms have begun to hire back some of the same mortgage and loan employees that they so recently fired and laid off. Potential borrowers have been eager to refinance since government interventions that helped push the interest rates down to record lows.

With unemployment on the rise, and a volatile stock market, the already troubled housing market continues to suffer, and housing prices continue to drop. As predicted, this is proving to be a tremendous strain on homeowners who purchased homes at the inflated price, leaving them to either refinance for a lower interest rate and pay off the bloated mortgage, or hope for the possibility of selling out at a huge loss, perhaps owing a large chunk of mortgage on a house they no longer own.

But those who have a currently high interest rate and clean credit report, refinancing at these low rates could be life saving. Many homeowners are stuck in high-interest ARMS, and a lower interest rate - even on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, could provide just enough monthly financial relief to slide through difficult times. And just maybe - the drop in interest rates could save the homes of those struggling to make payments that just don't fit in the budget anymore.