TThe Associated Press
NEW YORK — Mortgage rates are the most affordable in decades for those who can qualify for a loan.
For many, the opportunity to buy a home or refinance at this time is lost because of the tough economy and tight credit standards. But those who have secure jobs, superior credit and strong finances could do even better than the 4.54 average rate that Freddie Mac reported Thursday, according to experts.
The latest rate is the lowest for a 30-year fixed loan since Freddie began tracking rates in 1971. It also marks the fifth time in six weeks that the mortgage company has reported a new average low.
Still, it’s possible to get an even lower rate if a borrower contributes more than 20 percent to the down payment or has impeccable credit.
”Scores matter,” said Ritch Workman of Workman Mortgage in Melbourne, Fla. He can offer a rate of 3.375 percent on a $200,000 Freddie Mac loan – but the borrower must put down 20 percent, have a credit score of 800 and pay $1,400 in add-on fees.
Sometimes the best rates are offered by community banks or credit unions. They keep mortgages on their books instead of selling them to investors, said GregMcBride, a senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com. Other times, bigger banks or smaller mortgage bankers have the best deals.
Keep in mind that rates fluctuate significantly, even within a day, like airfares on a travel site. And the key to finding the best rate is to shop around online and in person.
The last time home loan rates were lower was during the 1950s, when most mortgages lasted 20 or 25 years.
Mortgage rates have been falling since spring. Yields on U.S. Treasury bonds have dropped as jittery investors seek safer investments. Rates tend to track the yields on Treasurys.