The U.S. housing market remains in a prolonged slump, but opportunistic buyers with borrowing ability are finding incredibly low mortgage rates these days -- with the 30-year home loan available this week for 4.32 percent, according to Freddie Mac.
Thirty-year mortgages have reached their lowest fixed rate of the year.
The typical rate for a 15-year mortgage this week was 3.5 percent, according to Freddie Mac. That's the lowest 15-year rate recorded since the lender began tracking the figure in 1991.
Even though rates are near record lows, and housing prices remain low throughout the country as an inventory glut of previously owned homes remains, home lending has slipped this year to its lowest level since 1997.
The housing market has been in crisis since the real estate bubble burst and through the official end of the recession, but economic uncertainties, a sagging stock market and threats of a new recession have pushed rates lower.
But the near-record low rates have boosted loan applications recently, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. The organization says loan applications have spiked by more than 20 percent due to a surge in refinancing activity with the low rates.
The latest rates are a nine-month low in the U.S.
Federal Reserve policy makers decided Tuesday to keep interest rates at record lows through mid-2013 in the effort to bolster the slow-growth economy. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, a template for consumer loans including mortgage rates, hit an all-time low after the Fed's announcement.
"The economy is going to remain weak for quite some time," said Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist at Toronto-based Capital Economics, in a telephone interview with Bloomberg. "You have to look at the impact of confidence. The big issue is the inability or unwillingness of people to borrow or buy a home."
So even though loan applications have spiked, the jump is mostly attributed to those who remain employed and currently own a home who refinance as opposed to first-time buyers and new home buying activity.