Toward the end of 2012, mortgage rates for 30-year fixed rate loans hit a new low – one rarely seen since tracking began in the early 1970s. While current mortgage rates still hover above November 2012 levels, amounts for both 15- and 30-year fixed rate loans dipped down from the last week of March to the first week of April 2013.

Specifically, according to an Associated Press, average rates for 30-year fixed loans went down to 3.54 percent this week, after being 3.57 percent last week. Similarly, amounts reported by Freddie Mac show that rates for 15-year fixed rate mortgages experienced a similar decline: 2.76 percent last week to 2.74 percent this week.

Since the last quarter of 2012, rates have continued to fluctuate, and the figures reported this week are part of a larger trend. While the record-low rates of November got to 3.31 percent for 30-year fixed rate mortgages, they inched up to 3.4 percent in the first week of January 2013 and then fell down to 3.38 percent the week after.

Lower rates, as AP pointed out, correlate with an improving housing market and, ultimately, a recovering economy. Declining rates spur greater sales of previously-owned homes, as well as new construction and refinancing. Prices inversely climb with rates dropping, and as of February 2013, the average price per home jumped to 10.2 percent.

But, as we have seen, lower rates aren’t a panacea for every real estate market condition. For instance, home sales may be up, but the FHA introduced stricter standards earlier this year. Tying into this latter point, first-time homebuyer rates are lower than average, with crushing student loan debt a force holding many Millennials back from making the jump to homeownership. At the same time, mortgage applications decreased in spite of rates for 15-year mortgages hitting a record low in March 2013.