Mortgage refinance demand surged 6%, as rates dropped to the lowest level since September

Real Estate

Mortgage interest rates dropped again last week, and while that did little to bolster demand from homebuyers, it did send homeowners looking for savings on their monthly payments.

Applications to refinance a home loan jumped 6% last week from the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s seasonally adjusted index. Volume, however, was still 85% lower than the same week one year ago.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($647,200 or less) decreased to 6.34% from 6.42%, with points decreasing to 0.59 from 0.64 (including the origination fee) for loans with a 20% down payment.

A property for sale in Monterey Park, California
Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images

Mortgage applications to purchase a home decreased 0.1% for the week and were 36% lower than the same week one year ago. This is historically the slowest time of the year for housing, and while rates are lower than they were a month ago, they are still more than twice what they were a year ago.

“The latest data on the housing market show that homebuilders are pulling back the pace of new construction in response to low levels of traffic, and we expect this weakness in demand will persist in 2023, as the U.S. is likely to enter a recession,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist. “However, if mortgage rates continue to trend down, as we are forecasting, more buyers are likely to return to the market later in the year, as affordability improves with both lower rates and slower home-price growth.”

But rates started this week higher and continued to move up sharply Tuesday, after the Bank of Japan shocked global markets by changing its monetary policy. A separate survey from Mortgage News Daily showed the average rate on the 30-year fixed jumping 11 basis points.

“This isn’t the sort of thing that’s likely to have an ongoing impact on US rates in the short term,” wrote Matthew Graham, chief operating officer at Mortgage News Daily. “Moreover, the impact was bigger than it otherwise would have been due to the time of year.”

Rates are now close to 25 basis points higher than they were last week Thursday.

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