15-year mortgage rate hits record low

mortgage rates

Mortgage rates continued to drop, with the 15-year fixed-rate loan hitting a record low, according to a weekly report from mortgage financier Freddie Mac.

The 15-year fixed rate fell to 2.61% this week from 2.64%, The previous record low of 2.63% was set the week of Nov. 21, 2012.

An adjustable-rate mortgage, the 5/1 ARM, also bottomed out at 2.58%. The most popular mortgage, the 30-year fixed-rate, came in at 3.4%, 0.09 percentage point above its record low.

"The housing market is getting a boost, with mortgage rates hovering at or near record lows," said Frank Nothaft, Freddie's chief economist.

He cited a pick-up in the pace of existing home sales to nearly 5 million a year during the first quarter of 2013, the most since the fourth quarter of 2009.

Related: 5 best markets to buy a home

The low 15-year rate meant that homeowners could book substantial savings by refinancing from their current 30-year fixed rates. Homeowners with 5% 30-year mortgages who switch to 2.6% loans 15-years would pay $21,000 in interest for every $100,000 borrowed over the course of the loan, compared with $93,000 in interest on the 30-year loan.

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About 75% of mortgage applications last week were for refinancings, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

How to play the 2013 housing market
How to play the 2013 housing market

The low rates should draw even more buyers into a housing market that has already heated up considerably.

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"There's no better way to welcome the spring home-buying season," said Keith Gumbinger, vice president at HSH.com, a mortgage information company. "But [there's] not much inventory available. Some sellers may be holding out for higher prices before putting their homes on the market this spring."

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