Do mortgage lenders have their hands full right now thanks to the recent surge in refinances? It looks like that may be the case, as new data from the Mortgage Bankers Association shows that refinances remained at three-year highs in the last week.

Overall, mortgage applications actually fell slightly in the last week, but that decline came entirely from purchase applications.

Mortgage applications retreated 0.9% from last week, according to data from the MBA’s Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending August 16, 2019.

According to the MBA, on an unadjusted basis, the index fell 0.9% from the previous week.

“In a week where worries over global economic growth drove U.S. Treasury yields 13 basis points lower, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate decreased just three basis points,” MBA Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting Joel Kan said. “As a result, the refinance index saw only a slight increase but remained at its highest level since July 2016.”

According to the MBA report, approximately 63% of all the mortgage applications received in the last week were for refinances, the highest the refinance share has been in almost three years. 

And as lenders are being inundated with refinances, they may be shifting their internal capabilities away from purchase mortgages, leading to a decline on that front.

“The small moves in rates and refinancing are potentially signs that lenders may be approaching capacity constraints as they continue to deal with the largest wave of refinance activity in three years,” Kan said. “The refinance share of applications, at almost 63%, was also at its highest level since September 2016.”

The Refinance Index rose 0.4% from the previous week and was 104% higher than the same time period in 2018. The unadjusted Purchase Index fell 5% from a week ago but remained 5% higher than the same week a year ago. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index slid 4% from the week before.

Here's a more detailed breakdown of this week's mortgage application data:

  • The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 62.7% from last week’s 61.4%.
  • The adjustable-rate mortgage share of activity increased to 6.4% of total applications.
  • The Federal Housing Administration's share of mortgage apps rose to 9.7% from last week’s 9.5%.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs' share of applications moved backward to 11.6% from last week’s 12.2%.
  • The Department of Agriculture's share of total applications held steady from last week’s 0.5%.
  • Mortgage interest rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($484,350 or less) decreased from last week’s rate of 3.93 to 3.9%.
  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $484,350) remained unchanged from last week’s 3.88%.
  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the FHA increased to 3.87% from last week’s 3.81%.
  • The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages grew from last week’s 3.28% to 3.30%.
  • The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs decreased to 3.35% from last week’s 3.43%.