WASHINGTON (AP) -- Long-term U.S. mortgage rates declined this week, moving closer to historically low levels.
Mortgage giant Freddie Mac said Thursday the average for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage eased to 3.47 percent from 3.52 percent last week. The benchmark rate is down from 3.76 percent a year ago and close to its all-time low of 3.31 percent in November 2012.
The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage, popular with homeowners who are refinancing, ticked down to 2.78 percent from 2.79 percent.
The low rates have continued to lure buyers into the market. Data issued Thursday by the National Association of Realtors showed that more people signed contracts to buy homes in September, an increase that likely points to rising sales in the closing months of the year.
The Realtors' seasonally-adjusted pending home sales index rose 1.5 percent last month to 110. Pending sales contracts are a barometer of future purchases. A sale is typically completed a month or two after a contract is signed.
To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country at the beginning of each week. The average doesn't include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1 percent of the loan amount.
The average fee for a 30-year mortgage rose to 0.6 point from 0.5 point last week. The fee for a 15-year loan was unchanged at 0.5 point.
Rates on adjustable five-year mortgages averaged 2.84 percent, down from 2.85 percent last week. The fee held steady at 0.4 point.