December 21st, 2009 7:15 AM by Lehel S.
For nearly two months, home buyers with good credit who can make a 20% down payment have enjoyed 30-year mortgage rates below 5%. But as signs of an improving economy increase, the yield on bonds has been edging higher and pulling home-lending rates along as well.Is the end of the sub-5% era in sight?Freddie Mac's widely followed rate survey pegged the average 30-year fixed mortgage at 4.94% for the week ended Thursday, up from 4.81% a week earlier. The survey assumes borrowers pay 0.7% of the loan amount in upfront lender fees and discount points. The low rates have given homeowners another golden opportunity to lower the interest rates on their mortgages. About three-quarters of all home loans written during the first two weeks of December were refinancings, Freddie Mac economist Frank Nothaft said.The Freddie Mac survey is just one of the tools consumers can use these days to monitor mortgage trends, with data also published by the trade group Mortgage Bankers Assn. and private outfits such as Bankrate Inc. and HSH Associates. Another entry in the rate-tracking derby, the nonprofit Fair Mortgage Collaborative, also has plans to publish regular updates on the cost of home loans. It will begin providing information the second week of January, said Jeff Lazerson, a Laguna Niguel mortgage broker involved in the effort. The group, with backing from the Ford Foundation, "will give average loan rates down to the ZIP Code, and all settlement costs, including third party, down to the state level," Lazerson said. "This very accurate, very complete, real-time and consistent bench-marking has never been done before."