Despite Low Rates, Housing Remains Weak

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One of the few benefits of the weak economy has been historically low interest rates.

The average interest rate for a 30-year mortgage rose slightly this week to 4.2 percent.

However, the low rates haven't been enough to revive the weak housing industry with unemployment still high and fears of another recession.

The average sales price of an existing home has dropped 30 percent since before the recession.

"You're trying to stimulate an industry that has so much garbage sitting on top of it that it won't work," said William Ford, former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

Some homeowners have been able to take advantage of the low rates to refinance their homes.

But problems remain. Many homeowners can't trade up to a more expensive house because they can't sell their homes. They owe more on their mortgages than their houses are worth.

New homeowners might not qualify for mortgages because banks have tightened lending standards after absorbing loan losses during the recession.

Industry analysts predict a vast inventory of foreclosed homes will likely depress housing prices for years.

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