Mortgage rates have hit their lowest level in more than three years, which could provide a boost to the country’s housing market heading into spring.

The 30-year fixed-rate average fell to 3.45 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal, citing data released Thursday by Freddie Mac. That’s down from 3.51 percent the week before and 4.41 percent at this time last year. The average rate for a 15-year mortgage also dropped to a three-year low at 2.97 percent. In June, it stood at 3.28 percent.

But home prices nationwide have skyrocketed in recent years, so the lower mortgage rates might not be enough to enable owners to buy their first homes. They also reflect concerns about the global economy.

Low mortgage rates did help push home sales to a yearly high mark in December, when the country saw 5.54 million home sales for a 3.6 percent increase from November. The lower rates have also spurred several refinancings, with the volume of applications increasing by 15 percent from the prior week to hit their highest mark since June 2013, according to recent data from the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Fannie Mae chief economist Doug Duncan told the Journal that the low mortgage rates could be good for existing and prospective homeowners.

“It’s very much a historical opportunity for folks who have an existing mortgage to refinance and for credit-qualified people to lock in a low rate,” he said. [WSJ] — Eddie Small

-The Real Deal