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COVID-19

U.S. average mortgage rates decline; 30-year loan at 2.95%

A "lot for sale" sign stands along side a housing lot in Des Plaines, Ill., on Sunday, March 21, 2021.  (Associated Press)
Associated Press

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Mortgage rates declined last week, pushing the benchmark 30-year home loan back down below the 3% mark. Signs continued of the economy’s recovery from the pandemic recession.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average for the 30-year rate fell to 2.95% from 3% last week. At this time last year, the average long-term rate was 3.15%.

The rate for a 15-year loan, popular among those seeking to refinance, eased to 2.27% from 2.29% last week.

With historically low mortgage rates prevailing, the U.S. housing market has grown so overheated as demand outpaces supply that prices keep hitting record highs – and roughly half of all houses are now selling above their list price. Two years ago, before the pandemic struck, just a quarter of homes were selling above the sellers’ asking price, according to data from the real estate brokerage Redfin.

New data out this week further illuminated the red-hot nature of the housing market: Prices rose in March at the fastest pace in more than seven years. The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index jumped 13.3% that month compared with a year earlier – the biggest such gain since December 2013. That price surge followed a 12% year-over-year jump in February.

The pandemic has encouraged more people to seek out the additional space provided by a single-family home. Yet at the same time, COVID-19 discouraged many homeowners from selling and opening up their homes to would-be buyers, thereby shrinking the number of homes for sale.In the latest positive economic news, the government reported Thursday that the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped last week to 406,000, a new pandemic low and further evidence that the job market is strengthening as the coronavirus wanes and the economy reopens more widely.