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In the fourth quarter of 2011, fixed-rate loans accounted for more than 95 percent of refinance loans, based on the Freddie Mac (OTC: FMCC) Quarterly Product Transition Report released recently. Refinancing borrowers clearly preferred fixed-rate loans, regardless of whether their original loan was an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) or a fixed-rate.

An increasing share of refinancing borrowers chose to shorten their loan terms during the fourth quarter. Of borrowers who paid off a 30-year fixed-rate loan, 43 percent chose a 15- or 20-year loan, the highest such share since the first quarter of 2003.

Fifty-eight percent of borrowers who had a hybrid ARM transitioned to a fixed-rate loan during the fourth quarter, while the remaining 42 percent chose to refinance into the same type of product.

“Fixed mortgage rates averaged 4.00 percent for 30-year loans and 3.30 percent for 15-year product during the fourth quarter in Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey®, well below long-term average,” says Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist.

“The Bureau of Economic Analysis has estimated the average coupon on single-family loans was about 5.2 percent during the fourth quarter of 2011. It’s no wonder we continue to see strong refinance activity into fixed-rate loans.”

“For borrowers motivated to refinance by low fixed-rates, they could obtain even lower rates by shortening their term. Compared to a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, the interest rate on 15-year fixed was about 0.7 percentage points lower during the fourth quarter. And for borrowers who plan to remain in their current home for only a few years, the hybrid ARM allows for even a greater interest-rate savings. The initial interest rate on a 5/1 hybrid ARM was about 1.1 percentage points lower than on a 30-year fixed-rate loan.”

For more information, visit www.freddiemac.com.

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