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Gift to Borrowers: Lowest December Mortgage Rates in 7 Years

Doug Whiteman
Gift to Borrowers: Lowest December Mortgage Rates in 7 Years

Christmas is already here for homebuyers and homeowners. Current mortgage rates are the lowest seen during any December since 2012, a MoneyWise.com review of rates data from mortgage giant Freddie Mac has found.

Borrowers continue to enjoy exceptionally low mortgage rates this week, according to the latest survey.

If you spot an attractive mortgage rate, consider locking it so you won't miss out.

This week's numbers

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Mortgage rates are steady this week.

Mortgage rates are holding steady, with 30-year fixed-rate mortgages still averaging 3.68% — same as last week, Freddie Mac said Thursday. The loans in the Freddie Mac survey come with an average 0.5 point.

"This week the economy sent mixed signals, leaving mortgage rates unchanged,” says Sam Khater, Freddie Mac's chief economist.

Rates have stayed in the same general neighborhood since mid-October, at levels far below what borrowers were landing in 2018. One year ago, 30-year mortgages were more than a full percentage point higher than they are now — at an average 4.75%.

Freddie Mac's historical data shows you have to go back seven years to find lower December rates than today's. During the first week of December 2012, 30-year fixed rate mortgages were averaging 3.34%, and they stayed close to that level throughout the month.

Use this calculator to see the kind of monthly payment you can expect from today's mortgage rates.

There's still time to refi

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You can find a great refinance rate even if your current mortgage is from 2018.

If you took out a home loan just last year, you might still be able to lower your monthly payment dramatically by doing a refinance into a new loan at a lower rate.

Homeowners who refinanced their mortgages during the spring are now saving an average of about $140 a month, or $1,700 a year, Freddie Mac has said.

Refinance activity is still up sharply compared to a year ago, even though borrowing took a bit of a Thanksgiving break last week, the Mortgage Bankers Association says.

Refinance applications dropped 16% last week versus a week earlier. But they were up 61% from the similar week in 2018.

The outlook for mortgage rates

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Mortgage applications overall fell 9.2% during Thanksgiving week, but those for loans to buy homes increased 1% last week. "Clearly homebuyers remain bullish on the real estate market," Freddie Mac's Khater says.

"Given low interest rates, modest inflation and a solid labor market, the U.S. housing market continues to stand firm," he says, "and our forecast is for the housing market to maintain momentum over the next two years."

Mortgage rates are expected to stay at historically low levels.

During what's left of 2019, Freddie Mac has forecast that 30-year fixed mortgage rates will average just 3.7%. They're expected to go up only slightly in 2020, to 3.8%, on average.

This week's other mortgage rates

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Homebuyers are finding great rates on the full range of mortgages.

Along with 30-year mortgage rates, rates on other types of home loans also are little changed this week.

The average for 15-year mortgages has slipped to 3.14%, from 3.15% last week. Those shorter-term home loans are a popular pick for refinances.

Last year at this time, 15-year fixed-rate mortgages were averaging a steeper 4.21%, Freddie Mac says.

Rates are down on 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, which are level for five years and then can adjust up — or down — every year after that.

ARMs are currently being offered at an average initial rate of 3.39%, compared to 3.43% last week. A year ago, those ARM starter rates were at an average 4.07%.

Take a look at today's best mortgage rates where you live.