Numbers Count: Weekly mortgage data highlights

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Numbers count. They matter to bankers and to prospective homebuyers, sellers, and real estate professionals. Here’s my take on the key numbers on the housing market this week.

The numbers: Mortgage rates fall

Young couple meeting with an agent, seated at a laptop with paperwork. [1]Reversing February’s trend, average mortgage rates have fallen, according to the most recent mortgage survey released March 5 by Freddie Mac [2]. The 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.75% with an average 0.6 points for the week ending March 5, down from the prior week when the average was 3.80%. A year ago, the 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 4.28%. Average 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.03% with an average 0.6 points, down from the prior week average of 3.07%. A year ago, the 15-year mortgage averaged 3.32%.

What counts: There has been a lot of attention on interest rates so far this year and whether it’s a good time to refinance. With rates remaining below 4%, here are 3 tips to consider related to refinancing:

* If you can lower your rate by at least 50 basis points, then a simple refinance will most likely pencil out, provided you intend to stay in your home several more years. The lower mortgage payment will typically offset the upfront refi expenses, such as the appraisal cost and lender fees. But talk to a lender to run the numbers to see what works for your particular situation.

* If you’re in an adjustable-rate mortgage, a refinance into a fixed-rate mortgage at a relatively low rate may be beneficial as a way to provide stability in your monthly payments for the long term. Compared to fixed-rate mortgages, adjustable-rate mortgages tend to carry a lower initial rate that adjusts in the future as rates fluctuate up or down, affecting your monthly payment.

* If you put down less than 20% on your home and have been paying mortgage insurance, you may want to consider refinancing. For example, borrowers with FHA loans, which are available with as little as 3.5% down, are required to pay mortgage insurance for the life of their loans. If you’ve lived in your home for a few years, it’s possible you now have more than 20% equity and you may be able to qualify for a non-FHA loan and avoid having to pay mortgage insurance.

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[2] released March 5 by Freddie Mac:

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