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As mortgage rates continue to tumble, buyers have reason to be a little more optimistic heading into the busy spring sales season.

The benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell to a new 10-month low of 4.54 percent from 4.57 percent a week ago, according to Bankrate.com’s latest survey of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders.

Mortgage rates declined across other loan terms, too. The average 15-year fixed mortgage rate dipped four basis points to 3.94 percent — the lowest in a year. The average 5/1 adjustable mortgage rate slipped one basis point to 4.21 percent from the previous week.

Despite lower rates, loan applications slide

Although rates are pushing lower, total mortgage applications fell 7 percent from a week ago, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s applications survey for the week ending Feb. 8.

Purchase applications plummeted 6 percent and were 5 percent lower than the same week a year ago, the MBA reported. Refinance applications saw a much smaller decline of 0.1 percent from the previous week.

The continuing decline in application activity — despite lower mortgage rates that would typically spur borrowers into action — shows that buyers may be taking a wait-and-see approach before diving in.

“Application activity fell last week — even with rates decreasing — as renewed uncertainty about the domestic and global economy likely held potential homebuyers off the market,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of industry surveys and forecasts, in a statement. “Despite the recent decline in applications, we still expect that the continued strength of the job market and lower rates will support more purchase activity in the coming months.”

Buyers (slightly) more optimistic about homebuying

Even though mortgage activity is slowing, buyers seem more optimistic about buying a home this year. The Fannie Mae Home Purchase Sentiment Index, which measures consumers’ attitudes toward housing market conditions, rose 1.2 points in January to 84.7.

The higher overall sentiment comes from an 8-percentage-point jump in the net share of Americans who say their household income is higher today than a year ago, Fannie Mae reported.

“Movement among the HPSI components points to possible housing affordability relief at the start of 2019,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae, in a statement. “The net share of consumers expecting home prices to increase over the next year has declined further, falling to the lowest level since late 2012.”

The index also showed that since last summer, fewer consumers believe that mortgage rates will rise in the year ahead, setting the stage for more stable home-sales activity in 2019, Duncan added.

Mortgage rates this week

The benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell this week to 4.54 percent from 4.57 percent, according to Bankrate’s weekly survey of large lenders. A year ago, it was 4.51 percent. Four weeks ago, the rate was 4.59 percent. The 30-year fixed-rate average for this week is 0.56 percentage points below the 52-week high of 5.10 percent, and is 0.02 percentage points greater than the 52-week low of 4.52 percent.

The 30-year fixed mortgages in this week’s survey had an average total of 0.38 discount and origination points.

Over the past 52 weeks, the 30-year fixed has averaged 4.74 percent. This week’s rate is 0.20 percentage points lower than the 52-week average.

  • The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to 3.94 percent from 3.98 percent.
  • The 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgage fell to 4.21 percent from 4.22 percent.
  • The 30-year fixed-rate jumbo mortgage fell to 4.47 percent from 4.54 percent.

At the current 30-year fixed rate, you’ll pay $509.06 each month for every $100,000 you borrow, down from $510.85 last week.

At the current 15-year fixed rate, you’ll pay $736.68 each month for every $100,000 you borrow, down from $738.69 last week.

At the current 5/1 ARM rate, you’ll pay $489.60 each month for every $100,000 you borrow, down from $490.19 last week.

Results of Bankrate.com’s weekly national survey of large lenders conducted February 13, 2019 and the effect on monthly payments for a $165,000 loan:

Weekly national mortgage survey
Breakdown 30-year fixed 15-year fixed 5-year ARM
This week’s rate: 4.54% 3.94% 4.21%
Change from last week: -0.03 -0.04 -0.01
Monthly payment: $839.96 $1,215.53 $807.84
Change from last week: -$2.95 -$3.30 -$0.97

The “Bankrate.com National Average,” or “national survey of large lenders,” is conducted weekly. The results of this survey are quoted in our weekly articles and national media outlets. To conduct the National Average survey, Bankrate obtains rate information from the 10 largest banks and thrifts in 10 large U.S. markets. In the Bankrate.com national survey, our Market Analysis team gathers rates and/or yields on banking deposits, loans and mortgages. We’ve conducted this survey in the same manner for more than 30 years, and because it’s consistently done the way it is, it gives an accurate national apples-to-apples comparison.