Mortgage Applications Are 22% Higher Than a Year Ago

Mortgage applications to purchase a home are 22% higher than a year ago, but last week applications did dip compared to the previous week. Purchase applications week to week were down 2% even as mortgage rates remain near record lows, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported Wednesday.

The lack of supply and rising home prices also may be pressing on home buyers. The weekly headlines of mortgage rates hitting new lows also may be causing some buyers to lose some of their urgency, particularly since rates are largely expected to stay low for the remainder of the year.

The average contract on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage last week dropped to 3.14%, according to the MBA. Freddie Mac reported mortgage rate averages under 3% last week.

“The MBA’s forecast calls for rates to remain at these low levels, which will continue to spur strong refinance activity and offer homeowners relief in the form of lower monthly mortgage payments during these uncertain economic times,” says Joel Kan, the MBA’s forecaster.

Overall, mortgage application volume decreased 5.1% last week compared with the previous week, according to the MBA’s seasonally adjusted index. Refinance applications dropped 7% last week, but are still 84% higher annually.

At today’s low mortgage rates, nearly 18 million borrowers with good credit scores could benefit from refinancing and lower their monthly mortgage payments, according to Black Knight, a mortgage data and analytics firm.

Still, while mortgage rates remain low, the very best rates are mostly being reserved to top-tier borrowers with stellar credit. Lenders are reportedly being stricter with low down payment loans, such as FHA mortgages, which are usually popular among first-time buyers.

“Purchase loan balances continued to climb, which is perhaps a sign that the still weak job market and tighter credit for government loans are constraining some first-time homebuyers,” Kan says.

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