The refinance share of mortgage activity increased a full 5% from December to January, rising to 45% of all closed loans, according to the latest Origination Insight Report from Ellie Mae.

The share of FHA refinances increased three percentage points from the previous month to 28% of all closed loans while the percentage of conventional refis rose four percentage points to 51% of closed loans in January.

These refinance rates increased despite rising interest rates. The 30-year interest rate increased from 4.28% in December to an average 4.33% in January.

But Ellie Mae explained this increase was expected, due to the low volume of purchase loans during the winter season.

“As we ring in 2018, we see refinances rise as a percent of overall loan volume, something that we have seen every January since we began reporting this data,” said Jonathan Corr, Ellie Mae president and CEO.

“This increase in the percentage of refinances is attributed to slower seasonal purchase market carrying over from the end of 2017,” Corr said. “Our expectation is percentage of refinances will taper back off to industry projected levels of 25% to 30% in the coming months as the purchase market resumes its momentum.”

At the recent NEXT 2018 women’s mortgage tech conference in Dallas, Texas, CoreLogic predicted the direction of mortgage rates in the upcoming year, saying as mortgage rates rise, refinance activity will plummet.

Overall, closing rates decreased slightly in January for all loan types, falling from 71.2% the month before to 70.9%. The closing rates on refinances decreased .1%, falling to 65.5% from last month's 65.6% while the closing rates on purchases decreased from 76.1% to 75.7%.

Closing times for all loans remained at 44 days in January, the report showed. The time to close a refinance shrank one day to 40 days while the time to close a purchase increased one day to 47 days.

FICO scores dropped one point to 721 while the average loan-to-value dropped from 79 to 77. The average debt-to-income ratio in January moved from 25/39 to 26/40.

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