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Fixed mortgage rates hover at record lows

(MoneyWatch) Fixed mortgage rates remain at record lows, according to Freddie Mac's weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey (PMMS), released Thursday. This marks the second week in a row that 15- and 30-year fixed rates have fallen.

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The rates for the week ending May 24, 2012 are as follows:

The 30-year fixed rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.78 percent, down slightly from last week's average of 3.79 percent. One year ago, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.6 percent.

Interest rates on a 15-year FRM averaged 3.04 percent, unchanged from last week's average. At this time last year, a 15-year FRM averaged 3.78 percent.

A 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.83 percent this week, also unchanged from last week. A year ago, a 5-year ARM averaged 3.41 percent.

The 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.75 percent this week, down from last week's average of 2.78 percent. One year ago, the 1-year ARM averaged 3.11 percent.

"Mortgage rates were virtually unchanged this week with fixed-rate loans remaining at record lows and helping to drive homebuyer affordability," Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist for Freddie Mac, said in a press release.

"The National Association of Realtors [NAR] Housing Affordability Index reached an all-time record high in the first quarter of this year since records began in 1970. In April, existing home sales rose to the highest rate since January with an annualized rate of 4.62 million homes with purchases increasing in all four Census Regions," Nothaft continued in the release.

"Similarly, sales of new homes also rose last month, beating the market consensus forecast. In addition, the Federal Housing Finance Agency purchase-only house price index rose 0.4 percent between the first quarter of 2011 and 2012 and represented the first four-quarter increase since the first quarter of 2007."

Existing home sales, prices rise in April
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These low mortgage rates seem to be driving more buyers. According to NAR, home sales rose in April and took prices with them. More first-time buyers are taking advantage of the low rates, too -- they accounted for 35 percent of purchases in April.

Whether you're a first-time buyer looking for your dream home or a current homeowner hoping to refinance, make sure you lock in your loan soon and take advantage of these low rates.

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