Mortgage rates were on the decline this week, a welcome sign for potential home buyers or those looking to refinance.

The 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 4.95 percent this week, down from 5 percent the week prior, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage market survey. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 5.05 percent.

The 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage also dropped for the week, averaging 4.22 percent, down from last week’s 4.27 percent. The 5-year adjustable-rate mortgage dropped slightly to 3.8 percent, compared to 3.87 percent the previous week.

“Low mortgage rates and home prices are sustaining affordability in the housing market,” says Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. The National Association of REALTORS® reported earlier this week that existing home sales rose for the third consecutive month in January and were at the strongest pace in eight months.

Source: “30-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage Eases Just Below 5 Percent,” Freddie Mac (Feb. 24, 2011)