WADE DANIELS Staff Reporter Low mortgage rates and shrinking unemployment in the San Fernando Valley are adding up to big business for mortgage lenders. A total of $499 million was loaned to Valley homeowners in July, an increase of 58.1 percent from the like period a year ago, according to Anaheim-based First American Real Estate Solutions, an industry research company. That also was 7.2 percent above June lending levels, according to First American. Tim McGarry, a spokesman at the Chatsworth offices of Washington Mutual, said business has been brisk. “We’re making loans, and the activity is still strong,” he said. The number of home loans made during the year through July rose 46.7 percent over the like period last year. In July, a total of 2,836 loans were made. In addition, home sale prices were up by 10.8 percent in July compared to a year earlier, hitting an average of $244,517. McGarry noted that unemployment is at its lowest point in decades, and said customers have been rushing in to take advantage of “the low interest rate climate.” Average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rates, which were at about 7.1 percent in July, compared to rates as high as 8.25 percent last year. By mid September, the rates had fallen to around 6.8 percent McGarry said it’s uncertain whether the market will continue to be as strong into fall, given the potential for fallout from economic problems abroad. “A question (about America’s economic future) has arisen because of the economic difficulties in Asia, in Russia and which are starting to affect South America,” he said.