MBA: U.S. refinance activity triples on low rates

But the housing market’s lack of inventory slows purchase growth

Last week, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to a low of 3.57%, spurring another uptick in refinance demand, resulting in mortgage applications rising by 0.5%, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The organization indicates that on an unadjusted basis, the index crawled forward 1% for the week ending on October 11, 2019.

Joel Kan, MBA’s vice president of economic and industry forecasting, said the ongoing interest rate volatility is impacting a borrowers’ ability to lock in the lowest rate possible.

“Despite a slight rise in mortgage rates last week, refinance applications increased 4% and were 199% higher than a year ago. Purchase applications slowed for the second week in a row,” Kan said. “While near term economic uncertainty is still a factor, other fundamental issues, such as a lack of housing inventory in many markets, is preventing purchase activity from meaningfully rising. However, purchase applications were still much higher than a year ago.”

The MBA indicates the seasonally adjusted Purchase Index fell 4% from last week, whereas the unadjusted Purchase Index fell 4% from the previous week, but remained 12% higher than the same week a year ago.

Kan says this is a reminder that America’s purchase environment is now stronger than it was in 2018.

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

  • The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 62.2% from last week’s 60.4%.
  • The adjustable-rate mortgage share of activity rose to 5.5% of total applications.
  • The Federal Housing Administration’s share of mortgage apps grew to 11.3% from last week’s 10.3%.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs share of applications moved forward to 12.9% from last week’s 12.3%.
  • The Department of Agriculture’s share of total applications retreated from last week’s 0.5% to 0.4%.
  • Mortgage interest rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($484,350 or less) ticked up from last week’s rate of 3.9% to 3.92%.
  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $484,350) held steady from last week’s 3.9%.
  • The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the FHA increased to 3.77% from last week’s 3.75%.
  • The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages fell from last week’s 3.35% to 3.32%.
  • The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs increased to 3.37% from last week’s 3.25%.

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