(CNN) Mortgage rates fell to another record low last week, for the 15th time this year.
The average interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped to 2.67%, according to Freddie Mac. That’s the lowest level in the nearly 50 years of the mortgage giant’s survey. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped to 2.21%.
This new low comes as the Federal Reserve said it would hold interest rates near zero amid a fragile economic recovery and as jobless claims increased again last week. Meanwhile, all eyes are on Congress, which has showed signs of progress on a new stimulus bill after months of stalled negotiations.
“The housing market continues to surge higher and support an otherwise stagnant economy that has lost momentum in the last couple of months,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.
He noted that the record low mortgage rates have pushed many prospective buyers off the sidelines. “Purchase demand shows no real signs of waning at all heading into next year,” he said.
But the low rates are also making it much more difficult for those buyers to find a home.
“Buyers with a keen eye on getting a home this holiday season are likely to struggle — both to find a house that checks all the boxes and to win in a competitive market,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com.
Still, she said, soaring buyer demand is keeping home sales at their highest pace in more than 15 years.
Applications for purchases are up 26% from a year ago and refinances are up 105% compared to this time last year, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
“The ongoing strength in the housing market has carried into December,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting. “Applications to buy a home increased for the fourth time in five weeks, as both conventional and government segments of the market saw gains.”