Mortgage rates declined for a third straight week, with the benchmark conforming 30-year fixed mortgage rate now 4.45%, with 0.45 discount and origination points, according to Bankrate.com. The record low of 4.42% was set in October and November of 2010.

The average 15-year fixed mortgage reset a record at 3.58% while the larger jumbo 30-year fixed rate fell below the 5% mark for the first time, landing at 4.89%. Adjustable rate mortgages saw the biggest decreases, with the average 5-year ARM dropping to 3.15% and the 10-year ARM falling to 3.83%.

Mortgage rates remain at, or near, record lows on a variety of both fixed and adjustable rate mortgage products. The weakness in the U.S. economy and the accompanying demand for Treasury securities has pushed mortgage rates lower. Fixed mortgage rates are closely related to yields on long-term government bonds.

The last time mortgage rates were above 6% was Nov. 2008. At the time, the average 30-year fixed rate was 6.33%, meaning a $200,000 loan would have carried a monthly payment of $1,241.86. With the average rate now 4.45%, the monthly payment for the same size loan would be $1,007.44, a difference of $234 per month for anyone refinancing now.

Source: Bankrate.com