WASHINGTON — 2012 looks to be another year of opportunity for the few who can afford to buy or refinance a home.

The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 3.91 percent this week, Freddie Mac said Thursday. That matches the record low reached two weeks ago.

The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage ticked down to 3.23 percent from 3.24 percent. That's up from 3.21 percent two weeks, also a record low.

Mortgage rates are lower because they tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which fell below 2 percent this week.

Still, cheap mortgage rates have done little too boost the depressed housing market. Many Americans either can't take advantage of the rates or have already done so.

High unemployment and scant wage gains have made it harder for many people to qualify for loans. Many don't want to sink money into a home that they fear could lose value over the next few years.

Previously occupied homes are selling just slightly ahead of 2010's dismal pace. And new-home sales in 2011 will likely be the worst year on records going back half a century.

Builders are hopeful that the low rates could boost sales next year. Low mortgage rates were cited as a key reason the National Association of Home Builders survey of builder sentiment rose in December to its highest level in more than a year.

But so far, rates are having no major impact. Mortgage applications have fallen slightly in recent weeks, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.