Mortgage demand ticks up ahead of the spring buying season

Demand surged for the first time in three weeks, according to MBA survey

The typically busy spring housing market seems to already be at the doorstep despite stubbornly higher mortgage rates.

Mortgage applications increased by 9.7% on a seasonally adjusted basis during the week ending March 1, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) weekly mortgage applications survey. It was the first increase in mortgage demand in three weeks.

“Mortgage applications were up considerably relative to the prior week, which included the President’s Day holiday,” Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s senior vice president and chief economist, said in a statement.

“Of note, purchase volume — particularly for FHA loans — was up strongly, again showing how sensitive the first-time homebuyer segment is to relatively small changes in the direction of rates. Other sources of housing data are showing increases in new listings, which is a real positive for the spring buying season given the lack of for-sale inventory.”

Purchase applications increased by 11% from one week earlier on a seasonally adjusted basis, while refinance applications rose by 8% in the same period. Last week, refis accounted for 30.2% of all applications, down from 31.2% the previous week.

As of Wednesday, the 30-year fixed rate on HousingWire’s Mortgage Rates Center stood at 7.16%.

The MBA survey shows that the average mortgage rate for 30-year fixed loans with conforming balances ($766,550 or less) decreased to 7.02%, down from 7.04% the week before. Meanwhile, rates on jumbo loans (balances greater than $766,550) increased to 7.21%, up from 7.20%.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) share of total applications decreased to 12.7% last week, down from 13% the week prior. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) share declined to 11.4%, down from 11.7% the week before. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) share remained unchanged at 0.5%.

The MBA survey, conducted weekly since 1990, covers more than 75% of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications. 

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