Mortgage demand surges higher as interest rates fall

Real Estate

A “For Sale” sign outside a house in Albany, California, US, on Tuesday, May 31, 2022. Homebuyers are facing a worsening affordability situation with mortgage rates hovering around the highest levels in more than a decade.

Joe Raedle | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Mortgage rates pulled back for the second straight week last week, and it was enough to get both current and potential homeowners on the phone with their lenders.

Mortgage application volume rose 7.2% last week, compared with the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s seasonally adjusted index.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($726,200 or less) decreased to 6.77% from 6.81% in the prior week, with points falling to 0.65 from 0.66 (including the origination fee) for loans with a 20% down payment.

Applications to refinance a home loan rose 6% for the week but were 41% lower than the same week one year ago. While rates pulled back, they are still more than a full percentage point higher than they were a year ago and more than twice what they were in the first two years of the Covid pandemic, when there was a refinance boom. Most borrowers today have lower rates than what is currently available and therefore do not want to lose those rates even for a cash-out refinance.

Applications for a mortgage to purchase a home increased 8% for the week but were 27% lower than the same week one year ago.

“Rates that are still more than a percentage point higher than a year ago, and low for-sale inventory continue to constrain homebuying activity in many markets,” said Joel Kan, an MBA economist, in a press release. “The average loan size on a purchase loan decreased for the third straight week, as we continue to see more first-time homebuyer activity in the purchase market.”

Mortgage rates haven’t moved much this week, but that could change Wednesday afternoon when the Federal Reserve announces the results of its latest policy meeting and updated rate forecasts.

“Some say the Fed will use those forecasts to telegraph another rate hike or two in 2023. Although the Fed Funds Rate doesn’t directly dictate mortgage rates, such a move would still put quite a bit of upward pressure on interest rates of all shapes and sizes,” wrote Matthew Graham, COO of Mortgage News Daily.

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