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By E. Scott Reckard, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

Mortgage lenders were offering conventional 30-year loans at an average rate of 4 percent this week compared to 4.04 percent a week ago, Freddie Mac’s weekly survey showed.

The survey, released each Thursday, found that fixed rates for 15-year loans also eased slightly, from 3.25 percent to 3.23 percent. There was little change in the start rates for adjustable home loans.

News from the housing markets has been generally positive, Freddie Mac’s deputy chief economist, Len Kiefer, said in announcing the survey results.

Although housing starts dropped 11.1 percent in May, housing permits have surged 11.8 percent to the highest level in nearly eight years, and a separate industry index has been rising since June, “suggesting home builders are very optimistic about home sales in the near future,” Kiefer said.

Freddie Mac’s survey, which dates to 1971, provides a consistent gauge of mortgage trends, but actual rates adjust constantly and are influenced by many factors.

The big mortgage finance company asks lenders each Monday through Wednesday about the terms they are offering to solid borrowers seeking mortgages of up to $417,000. The loans must conform to guidelines set by Freddie Mac and by Fannie Mae, the nation’s other major buyer and guarantor of home loans.

The borrowers would have paid an average of 0.7 percent of the loan balance in upfront lender fees and discount points to obtain the 30-year fixed-rate loan in the latest survey. Payments for such services as appraisals and title insurance are not included.

Photo: Some good news for the housing markets, like this beautiful Laurens, South Carolina, home. via Flickr

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