Deals are everywhere as mortgage rates plunge back to record lows

Keychain shaped like a house with 2 keys

The record-low mortgage rates we've enjoyed since summer are going to continue right on through the winter..

The average cost of a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage -- the most popular type of home loan fell to just 4.42% in our latest survey of major lenders taken Nov. 3.

That's the lowest average cost for these loans since and its print predecessors began the survey in 1985.

Interest rates like we're seeing right now make financing a home incredibly cheap.

Just search our extensive database for mortgage rates in your area.

In most cities, you'll find lenders offering 30-year, fixed-rate loans for 4.25% with no points and fees of $2,000 or less.

That means your principal and interest payments will be just $492 a month for every $100,000 you borrow. (Our mortgage calculator can show you the payment for any loan, any amount, rate and term.)

By any historical standard, a 30-year, fixed-rate loan that costs less than 6.5% is a good deal. So what does that make today's rates? A once-in-a-lifetime good deal.

Opt for a 15-year loan -- a popular alternative for refinancing -- and you'll be able to cut that to 3.75% with payments of $727 a month for every $100,000 you borrow.

The average cost of a 15-year mortgage was 3.81% in our most recent survey, which is also another record low.

Finance a home with loans like these and you'll never have to worry about your mortgage again.

They're incredibly cheap and totally safe, carrying none of the risks associated with interest-only or adjustable-rate mortgages. You'll never have to fret about interest rates going up, principal payments kicking in or any other nasty surprises that could drive up your housing costs a few years down the road.

Rates were expected to rise after the Federal Reserve ended its campaign to flood the mortgage market with money in early 2010.

But concerns about the economy's slow recovery, and that several European nations might default on their debt, sent investors fleeing for the safety of Treasury bills or other debt guaranteed by the U.S. government.

That includes mortgages, because 96% of all new home loans are now backed in some way by an agency of the federal government.

That surge in demand has actually pushed interest rates down since the Federal Reserve bought the last of the $1.25 trillion worth of home loans it now holds in late March.

The plan it announced Nov. 2, to jump back in the market and buy another $600 billion in long-term Treasury bills by the end of June 2011, should ensure that all types of long-term interest rates, including mortgage rates, remain low throughout the winter.

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