Mortgage rates fell for a third week in a row as turmoil in the Middle East had investors seeking safety in bonds, including those that fund most mortgage loans.

Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.87 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending March 3, down from 4.95 percent last week and 5.05 percent the week ending Feb. 10, according to a weekly survey by Freddie Mac.

A homebuyer taking out a 30-year fixed-rate loan this week could expect to pay $263 less per year on a $200,000 loan than a borrower taking out a loan at 5.05 percent, said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac chief economist.

Mortgage rates fell for a third week in a row as turmoil in the Middle East had investors seeking safety in bonds, including those that fund most mortgage loans.

Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.87 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending March 3, down from 4.95 percent last week and 5.05 percent the week ending Feb. 10, according to a weekly survey by Freddie Mac.

A homebuyer taking out a 30-year fixed-rate loan this week could expect to pay $263 less per year on a $200,000 loan than a borrower taking out a loan at 5.05 percent, said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac chief economist.

Last year at this time, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.97 percent. The all-time-low in Freddie Mac records dating to 1971 was 4.17 percent during the week ending Nov. 11.

Freddie Mac’s rate survey showed 15-year fixed-rate loans averaging 4.15 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from 4.22 percent last week and 4.33 percent a year ago. The 15-year fixed-rate loan hit a low in records dating back to 1991 of 3.57 percent in November.

Rates on 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) loans averaged 3.72 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from 3.8 percent last week and 4.11 percent a year ago. The 5-year ARM hit a low in records dating to 2005 of 3.25 percent in November.

For 1-year Treasury-indexed ARMs, rates averaged 3.23 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from 3.4 percent last week and 4.27 percent a year ago.

A separate survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association showed demand for purchase loans was down a seasonally adjusted 6.1 percent last week compared to the week before, and requests for refinancings were down 6.5 percent. Those numbers were not adjusted for the Presidents Day holiday.

The MBA survey showed demand for purchase loans down 19.6 percent from the same week a year ago.

In a Feb. 18 forecast, MBA economists projected rates on 30-year fixed-rate loans will average 5.2 percent during the first three months of this year, rising to an average of 5.5 percent in the second quarter, 5.6 percent in the third quarter, and 5.8 percent in the final three months of the year.

Next year, the MBA projects rates on 30-year fixed-rate loans will gradually climb to an average of 6.3 percent in the final three months of 2012.

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