Mortgage interest rates ease

After rising for a month, the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed loan declined to 5.07% this past week from 5.21% the previous week, Freddie Mac said in its weekly survey of lenders.

Fixed-rate 15-year mortgages, a popular option for people refinancing to pay off their homes more quickly, averaged 4.40%, down from 4.52%.

Rates on adjustable mortgages also fell slightly, Freddie Mac said. A news release on the survey was expected to be posted later Thursday.

Freddie Mac, the government-controlled buyer and guarantor of home loans, asks lenders each Monday through Wednesday what terms they are offering for popular combinations of rates and lender fees. In this week’s survey, the lenders were charging 0.6% of the loan balance in upfront fees on the 30-year loan and 0.7% on the 15-year loan, Freddie Mac said.

An economist for the mortgage company noted that a Federal Reserve regional business survey this week said consumer prices generally remained level and that producers had difficulty passing along cost increases in some raw materials. Low inflation holds down interest rates.

The Freddie Mac survey and others tracking mortgage rates are useful as indicators of general trends but different rates may be available to individual borrowers. Freddie Mac, for example, surveys rates being offered on loans of $417,000 or less to borrowers with good credit and 20% downpayments or equivalent equity in their homes.

Mortgage experts say well qualified borrowers may be able to find loans at slightly lower interest rates if they shop around.