Homeowners around the country are scrambling to refinance their mortgages at the lowest rates since the early 1960s as the economy staggers through what’s likely to be the worst recession in decades. Mortgage brokers are already reporting a surge of calls from borrowers trying to take advantage of the Federal Reserve’s extraordinary actions this week. The central bank, aiming to free up lending and jolt the economy back to life, on Tuesday cut the federal funds rate from 1 percent to a target range of zero to 0.25 percent and pledged to keep funneling money into the market for mortgage investments.
On Wednesday, some mortgage brokers were quoting mortgage rates of close to 4.5 percent for people with strong credit and hefty down payments. The national average rate on 30-year, fixed mortgages was 5.06 percent on Wednesday, according to financial publisher HSH Associates — the lowest since the 1960s and down from 5.3 percent Tuesday.
It was the best news in months for anyone looking to lock in a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage. But it was not expected to be a cure-all, and borrowers already in danger of foreclosure probably won’t be able to take advantage.
Analysts say the Fed’s moves to buy up mortgage debt are designed to reduce the an unusually large difference, or spread, between mortgage rates and yields on government debt. In recent years, there has been about a 1.8 percentage point difference between the yield on a 10-year Treasury note and 30-year mortgage rates, but gap currently hovers around 3 percentage points.