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HARP refinancings dip in second quarter

Rising rates push down volumes

Higher mortgage rates caused refinance volumes to edge down in the second quarter as fewer homeowners filed refi applications.

When compared to the two prior periods, 2Q refinance volumes fell slightly, according to the latest housing agency refinance data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

In the second quarter, 279,933 Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages refinanced through the government's Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), representing 22% of total refinance volume.

The slight drop in refi volumes occurred as mortgage rates rose sharply to 4.07% in June, up from 3.57% in March.

The total number of HARP refinances from the inception of the program to now totals 2.65 million.

Market analysts expect the trend to continue, as mortgage rates are likely to trend higher once the Federal Reserve begins scaling back its monetary stimulus.

"I think once rates begin their return to normalcy as the Fed starts to taper, refinance demand is likely to further decline," explained Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) markets and international banking analyst Sarah Hu.

She added, "The tapering of refinance activity may have already occurred as evidenced in this week's refinance index (< 2000), the lowest since Jan 2011."

On a similar note, Compass Point Research & Trade analyst Kevin Barker noted that HARP refinance volumes will remain under pressure given the higher rates.

"If borrowers have less of incentive to refinance at higher levels, it’s going to effect volumes and how aggressively originators will target HARP borrowers," Barker stated.

He continued, "I would point out that the drop in refi activity compared to HARP volumes will be relatively less because they’ll be more resilient to rates."

Of the loans that refinanced through HARP in the second quarter, 19% had a loan-to-value ratio greater than 125%.

While taking a look at year-to-date figures through June, 18% of HARP refinances for underwater borrowers were for shorter-term 15- and 20-year mortgages, building equity faster than traditional 30-year mortgages.

In Nevada and Florida, markets that analysts have been keeping an eye on since the recovery began, HARP refinances represented 59% and 50% of total refinances, respectively. This is more than double the 21% of total refinances throughout the country over the same time period.

Underwater borrowers accounted for a large portion of HARP refinances in a number states, representing more than 61% of HARP volume in Nevada, Arizona and Florida.

From the program’s inception through June, 2.34 million loans refinanced through HARP were for primary residences, 78,756 were for second homes and 307,272 were tied to investment properties. 

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