Mortgage rates skid to 6-month low at beginning of homebuying season

By Holden

Mortgage rates don't get much better than this. Not recently, anyway.

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Rates for home loans fell this week to their lowest level since just after the presidential election. You couldn't ask for better timing: As homebuying season heats up, mortgage rates are at six-month lows, making it a good time to apply for a home loan.

Increasing numbers of first-timers

The ongoing decline in mortgage rates is particularly welcome news for first-time homebuyers, who have been stepping it up this year. They made up 60 percent of homebuyers who got mortgages in February, according to the Urban Institute. Five years earlier, the first-time buyers' share was 57 percent. The rise of first-timers is slow but sure.

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The average first-time buyer makes a down payment of 9 percent, and for those getting Federal Housing Administration-insured loans, it's 4.5 percent. As you would expect, first-timers buy less-expensive homes than repeat buyers.