Interest in refis sinks even further

Mortgage applications decreased 13.1% for the week ending Feb. 18 to the lowest level since December 2019, as mortgage rates eclipsed the 4% mark.

The Mortgage Bankers Association‘s seasonally adjusted refi index fell 15.6% from the previous week, bringing its share of total applications to almost equal the purchases share at 50%. Meanwhile, the purchase index dropped 10.1%, falling again for the third straight week.

Compared to the same week one year ago, mortgage apps overall dropped 41%, with a sharp decline in refi (-56.4%) compared to purchase (-5.4%). The survey, conducted weekly since 1990, covers over 75% of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications.   

According to Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, the 30-year fixed rate increased almost a full percentage point in comparison to one year ago. 

The trade group estimates that the average contract 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for conforming loans ($647,200 or less) increased to 4.06% from 4.05% the week prior. For jumbo mortgage loans (greater than $647,200), rates rose to 3.84% from 3.81% the week prior. 

“Mortgage applications dropped to their lowest level since December 2019 last week, as mortgage rates continued to inch higher,” Kan said. “Higher mortgage rates have quickly shut off refinances, with activity down in six of the first seven weeks of 2022.”

The survey showed that the refi share of mortgage activity decreased to 50.1% of total applications last week, from 52.8% the previous week. VA apps rose to 9.9% from 9.3% in the same period.

The FHA share of total applications increased to 8.7% from 8.3% the prior week. Meanwhile, the adjustable-rate mortgage share of activity increased from 5% to 5.1% and the USDA held steady at 0.4%.   

Purchases applications, already constrained by elevated sales prices and tight inventory, have also been impacted by higher rates, Kan said. “While the average loan size did not increase this week, it remained close to the survey’s record high.” The average loan size was at $453,000. 

Economists had predicted rates would rise in 2022 as the overall economy stabilized, reducing mortgage applications.

For the coming weeks, Kan told HousingWire that If conditions stay in the current state, we’ll certainly see higher rates. However, rates could quickly head in the other direction, “if something abroad rocks the boat,” such as an armed conflict with Russia and Ukraine, an emergent Covid variant, or a sudden change in certain commodity prices. 

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