Mortgage activity ticks up in March but at lowest level since 1997

New home apps up 15% is one bright spot

Mortgage applications for new home purchases in March increased by 15% over February, the Mortgage Bankers Association’s builder application survey shows. 

This bit of good news comes on the heels of news from the MBA that lenders have made a mere $226 billion of mortgages in the first quarter of 2014, which is the lowest amount since 1997 and not even one-third of the pre-crisis, 2006 average pace.

Black Knight Financial Services measure shows originations are at their lowest level since 2000.

Wells Fargo (WFC) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM) both have seen their mortgage business plummet.

Conventional loans composed 68.3% of loan applications, FHA loans composed 17.2%, RHS/USDA loans composed 1.6% and VA loans composed 12.9%. 

The average loan size of new homes increased from $295,008 in February to $296,428 in March.

The MBA estimates sales of new single-family homes were running at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 479,000 units in March 2014, based on data from the BAS.

The estimated sale pace for March is a decrease of 10.1% from the February pace of 533,000 units. 

Wednesday MBA will release the weekly report on mortgage applications, which have been declining for a month straight.

Lending has been in a steep decline mortgage rates started ticking up at the start of the third quarter of 2013 on talk of a tapering of the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program, which is now down to $55 billion in purchases a month.

Adding to the headwinds are the rising affordability gap, investor driven price increases, and the much tighter lending standards imposed on the industry.

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