Long-term mortgage rates remain at historically low levels

 "Heading into 2020, low mortgage rates and the improving economy will be the major drivers of the housing market with steady increases in home sales, construction and home prices"

Washington -- U.S. long-term mortgage rates are little changed this week, remaining at historically low levels to prod prospective homebuyers.

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Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage ticked up to 3.74%, from 3.73% last week. The benchmark rate stood at 4.55% a year ago.  The average rate on a 15-year mortgage was 3.19%, unchanged from last week.

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The average rate for a five-year adjustable-rate mortgage rose to 3.45%, up from last week's 3.37%.

Earlier this month, the Federal Reserve left its key short-term rate in a low range of 1.5% to 1.75% after having reduced it three times this year. With the Fed's key rate likely to stay where it is, consumers looking to buy a home or car should continue to enjoy low borrowing costs.

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For the year, the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 3.9%, the fourth-lowest annual rate since they began tracking it in 1971, said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac's chief economist.

"Heading into 2020, low mortgage rates and the improving economy will be the major drivers of the housing market with steady increases in home sales, construction and home prices," Khater said.

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Freddie Mac surveys lenders nationwide between Monday and Wednesday each week to compile its mortgage rate figures. The average doesn't include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates.

The average fee on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages remained at 0.7 point this week. The average fee for the 15-year mortgage also held at 0.7 point. The fee for the five-year adjustable-rate mortgage edged down to 0.3 point from 0.4 point.

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