Affordability was expected to be a bright spot in the housing market this year, thanks to forecasts that mortgage rates would remain relatively low throughout the year.

Rates, in fact, are sitting are hovering near five-decade lows.

For the week ending Feb. 13, the 30-year fixed-rate averaged 3.47 percent, Freddie Mac said Thursday. The 15-year fixed-rate was 2.97 percent.

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Low mortgage rates not only allow potential homebuyers the opportunity to get good rates on home loans, but they also provide an opportunity to refinance.

When homeowners refinance, they are basically replacing an existing mortgage loan with a new one, which can be accomplished through any bank, not just the original lender. Oftentimes individuals will adjust their mortgage rate, the loan length or the amount borrowed – they can also use refinances to access equity.

According to Freddie Mac, refinance application activity has risen to the highest level in seven years.

While rates are low – making a potential purchase more attractive – prospective buyers could face affordability challenges in the market itself.

Since homebuyers jumped into the housing market in January, competition drove home prices up 6.7 percent compared with the year prior – to a median of $306,400. Inventory is specifically tight in the entry-level market – a trend that is expected to endure throughout 2020.