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      Mortgage rates reach a new low

      House buyers are in luck. Fixed U.S. mortgage rates have fallen to new lows and are showing the signs of a modestly recovering housing market.

      As of last week, the average on the 30-year loan dropped to 3.62 percent. That's down from 3.66 percent last week and the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s. The average rate on the 15-year mortgage, a popular refinancing option, slipped to 2.89 percent, below last week's previous record of 2.94 percent. The average rate on the 30-year loan has fallen to or matched record low levels in 10 of the past 11 weeks, and it's been below four percent since December.

      With record low mortgage rates, it can be an exciting time for home buyers. A cheaper housing market means you may finally be able to afford that home you've had your eye on.

      "As interest rates go down, you increase the buying power of the average buyer, or actually any buyer, because the dollar goes further when it comes to loan payments," said Mike Mattila, mortgage banker with River Valley Bank in Marquette.

      This may also be a good time to consider refinancing your home and save yourself some money.

      "If I own a home right now, and I'm able to take advantage of refinancing that house, effectively I'm able to give myself a raise. So you would say, if I'm not spending as much on my house payment, I have more money to spend on other things," Mattila said.

      Stephanie Jones, an associate broker with Select Realty in Marquette, sees this as an opportunity for home owners to upgrade.

      "Although they can refinance, it may be a great opportunity for them to move up into a bigger or better home at this time because of the low interest rates," said Jones.

      Pricing is key in today's market. This house was once $160,000, now down to $150,000, to appeal to the correct buyer. Lower rates and prices, however, may not always represent the best value in a house. Purchasing a new house may come with some unwanted fees, so you need to make sure you get the home that you need, which is why you should not go house hunting alone. Purchasing a new home is a serious investment, so it's a good idea to talk with a local lender and realtor before you start your search.

      "Using a real estate professional can help you get the most out of your home," Jones said.

      They can offer insight into the entire local housing market that can be invaluable to house buyers.