The cheapest money in nearly 40 years is now available. But few are taking advantage of it.

Call it the credit conundrum.

The pipeline of eligible mortgage borrowers, both locally and nationally, is showing signs of drying up.

"Conceivably, there are a lot of good buying opportunities right now, but there's uncertainty and risk and a lot of reasons why people aren't jumping in," said College of Charleston economist Frank Hefner, who called the current interest rates "a lifetime opportunity."

Mortgage rates slipped to historic lows this week, nudging potential home buyers to lock in at rock-bottom rates and giving homeowners who haven't refinanced yet another shot at cutting their monthly payments.

The average national rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 4.69 percent, the lowest point since financing giant Freddie Mac began tracking the figure in 1971. Local mortgage offices were offering rates that range from 4.375 percent to 4.625 for a 30-year fixed conventional mortgage.

Hefner said the fallout from the recession is partly to blame for the lackluster response to the cheap money. He said some would-be home buyers who are worried about losing their jobs are hesitant about jumping into the housing market right now.

Also, Hefner added, homeowners who owe more than their properties are worth don't qualify for refinancing.

Rates are down thanks to supply and demand. Investors are steering their money away from the shaky stock market and toward safer government-backed Treasury bonds. At the same time, fewer refinancings and home purchases are creating a larger building pool of money that can be loaned out. That pushes interest rates down.

Read more in tomorrow's Post and Courier.