Mortgage rates rose for the first time in three weeks, while holding close to the record lows that have juiced up the U.S. housing market.

The average for a 30-year loan climbed to 2.96 per cent this week, up from 2.88 per cent, which was the lowest in almost 50 years of data-keeping by Freddie Mac. The rate fell below three per cent for the first time in July, a slide in borrowing costs that began earlier this year as COVID-19 roiled financial markets.

The low rates have made purchases more affordable and put money back in the pockets of homeowners who’ve refinanced, making housing a bright spot in an economy otherwise ravaged by the pandemic. Sales of both new and previously owned houses have surged, and more renters have become buyers.

“Homebuyer demand remains strong, especially for those in search of an entry-level home where the improvement in affordability via lower mortgage rates has a material impact,” Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, said in a statement.

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