Mortgage rates skid to six-month low

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

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.

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.

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.

But can they afford it?

Affordability remains a big concern in the housing market, and that’s even more of an issue when you buy a home and get a mortgage for the first time. Calculators can help. One helps you figure out how much you can afford to borrow for a mortgage. Another looks at the question in a different way, helping you calculate how much house you can afford. And for those with some financial breathing room, there’s a calculator to help decide whether to get a 15-year or 30-year mortgage.

Mortgage rates this week

The benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage fell this week to 4.09 percent from 4.13 percent, according to Bankrate’s weekly survey of large lenders. A year ago, it was 3.81 percent. Four weeks ago, the rate was 4.18 percent. The 30-year, fixed-rate average for this week is 0.35 percentage points below the 52-week high of 4.44 percent and 0.57 percentage points above the 52-week low of 3.52 percent.

The 30-year fixed mortgages in this week’s survey had an average total of 0.23 discount and origination points.

Over the past 52 weeks, the 30-year fixed has averaged 3.96 percent. This week’s rate is 0.13 percentage points higher than the 52-week average.

■ The 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 3.31 percent from 3.32 percent.

■ The 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage fell to 3.41 percent from 3.42 percent.

■ The 30-year fixed-rate jumbo mortgage fell to 4.02 percent from 4.06 percent.

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