WASHINGTON – Mortgage rates climbed this week, but they are still lower than a year ago and should continue to spur the housing market.

The average rate on benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages rose to 5.52 percent this week, up from 5.40 percent last week, mortgage giant Freddie Mac reported Thursday in its weekly nationwide survey of mortgage rates.

In mid-June last year, rates on 30-year mortgages sank to 5.21 percent, their lowest level on record. Rates on 30-year mortgages have bounced around since then. A year ago, 30-year mortgages averaged 5.79 percent, 15-year mortgages 5.06 percent and one-year adjustable mortgages stood at 3.82 percent.

For 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages, a popular option for refinancing, rates this week increased to 4.84 percent from 4.70 percent last week.

Rates for one-year adjustable mortgages moved up this week to 3.46 percent, compared with 3.36 percent last week, which had been the lowest since Freddie Mac began tracking rates on one-year ARMs in 1984.

“Even with rates slightly higher, the housing industry will continue to be an active, solid sector of the economy going into the spring buying season,” said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

“We don’t foresee any major slowdown in the housing market this year,” he said. “Quite the contrary, we are confident 2004 will be another banner year for home sales.”

Low mortgage rates propelled home sales to record highs in 2003.

The nationwide averages for mortgage rates do not include add-on fees known as points. Each loan type carried an average fee of 0.6 point this week.

Federal Reserve member Donald Kohn, in a speech Thursday, raised some concern about home prices, which have continued to climb. “The odds have risen that these prices could be out of line with fundamentals,” he said. But added: “We still cannot be very confident about whether a significant misalignment exists, however,”

In another report, the Mortgage Bankers Association said refinancing accounted for 62.8 percent of all mortgage applications filed last week. That was down from 63.1 percent the previous week.

Teri Powell has joined the Mukilteo office of Windermere Real Estate as a sales associate. Susan Toms and Dorrine Zelmer have joined the Monroe office. Diane McGraw and Gwen Piscopo have joined the Mill Creek office.

RE/MAX has added a new program at its 4,800 offices to help increase the safety of clients and agents. The Safety Awareness for Every Realtor program will feature training seminars about how to remain safe in different settiongs. Tactics include keeping in touch with an office assistant or buddy, meeting clients at the office and having an associate accompany an agent to show listings after dark.

John L. Scott Real Estate had the most successful month in the company’s 73-year history in March. CEO Lennox Scott attributes the success to excitement about the market. Scott predicts another surge of home buying activity when rates begin to rise again later this year.

Send your real estate news items to Mike Benbow, Business editor, The Herald, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206, by fax at 425-339-3435, or by e-mail at

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