Record-low interest rates
Ben Bernanke

Cheap money has certainly helped the housing market recover. For the past few years, average interest rates on 30-year-fixed mortgages fell to new lows. With December remaining, rates this year averaged 3.68%, lower than the average 4.45% for 2011 and 4.69% in 2010.

To be sure, rates can't stay low forever. Which is why some have worried a return to higher rates could push home prices down again. But if the Federal Reserve has its way, that won't happen any time soon. In an unusual move during its last meeting of the year, the central bank's policy-making board decided to leave rates untouched until the unemployment rate falls to 6.5% so long as inflation stays low. Which means, according to the Fed's predictions, rates will likely stay low into 2015.


  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated December 27 2012 05:39 AM ET
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