Mortgage rates in the U.S. dipped below seven per cent for the first time in more than a month.

The average for a 30-year, fixed loan was 6.94 per cent, down from 7.02 per cent last week, Freddie Mac said in a statement Thursday. It was the third straight week of declines.

The market normally kicks into high gear during this time of year when warmer weather draws more people out for open houses. But mortgage rates hovering close to seven per cent and prices that keep climbing are preventing many buyers from being able to afford properties. 

It’s weighing on sales, with transactions for previously owned homes falling in April for a second straight month and new home sales down as well.

The recent easing of rates and a sign that inventory of homes for sale is ticking up may provide some relief to buyers.

“Greater supply coupled with the recent downward trend in rates is an encouraging sign for the housing market,” Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, said in a statement.

The U.S. Federal Reserve’s timing on rate cuts largely will depend on how the economy fares. Earlier this month, policymakers agreed that interest rates needed to be higher for longer, while “many” questioned whether policy was restrictive enough to tame inflation to the Fed’s target, according to minutes released this week.

“For rates to fall further below seven per cent, there must be consistent evidence that inflation is on track to return to two per cent,” Jiayi Xu, a economist, said.