In a year of financial firsts, this one stands out: Mortgage rates have fallen below the 3% mark.

The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 2.98%, mortgage-finance giant Freddie Mac said Thursday, its lowest level in almost 50 years of record keeping. It is the third consecutive week and the seventh time this year that rates on America’s most popular home loan have hit a fresh low.

The…

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