Mortgage rates in 2010 were the lowest in six decades. Will they stay low, or will they rise, making the purchase of a home more expensive in 2011?

In November of 2010, the 4.17% interest rate was the lowest since Freddie Mac began tracking rates in 1971, and the lowest since World War II, according to Weiss Research, a financial analysis and publishing firm. Rates in December did rise, fluctuating around 4.83%.

According to an article by the Realty Times, last week the U.S. weekly average mortgage interest rate was 4.86% for a 30 year-fixed loan, but has dropped to 4.77% this week. So rates, although fluctuating, have inched up in 2011.

Still, borrowing costs are still very affordable, compared with the rates of 6 to 8% over most of this decade. To get an idea of how good things are right now, you can look at a table of historical rates available from Freddie Mac at www.freddiemac.com/pmms/pmms30.htm.

The historically low rates may continue. The chief economist of Freddie Mac wrote in an annual trend forecast on December 6 that “while some rise in fixed-rates is expected, 30-year fixed-rate loans are likely to remain below 5%” throughout 2011.

But most other experts expect rates to rise at a greater rate. HSH Associates, an independent publisher of mortgage and consumer loan information, stated that with 2010’s historically low rates, interest rates have nowhere to go but up. In addition, the Mortgage Bankers’ Association, a trade group, predicted that 30-year fixed rates will inch up to 5.1% by the end of 2011 and reach 5.7% in 2012.

The recent and sustained increase in interest rates indicates that consumers can expect to incur higher borrowing expenses later in the year. Home prices are also expected to rise this year. As a result, if you plan to buy a home in the Phoenix metropolitan area this year, you should do it sooner rather than later.