Mortgage rates rise to an 8-month high, tanking refinance demand

Finance news

Real estate agents arrive at a brokers tour showing a house for sale in San Rafael, California.

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Mortgage rates have been on a tear this month, rising yet again last week to the highest level in eight months, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. That caused mixed demand for mortgages last week, resulting in no change from the week before.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($548,250 or less) increased to 3.30% from 3.23%, with points decreasing to 0.34 from 0.35 (including the origination fee) for loans with a 20% down payment. That rate was 30 basis points lower one year ago.

As a result, refinance demand fell 2% week to week, seasonally adjusted. Volume was 26% lower than the same week one year ago. The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 62.2% of total applications from 63.3% the previous week.

“The increase in rates triggered the fifth straight decrease in refinance activity to the slowest weekly pace since January 2020. Higher rates continue to reduce borrowers’ incentive to refinance,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, in a release.

Mortgage applications to purchase a home increased 4% for the week but were 9% lower than the same week one year ago. As home prices continue to rise, and most of the sales are in higher price tiers, the average loan size rose to its highest level in three weeks.

“Both new and existing-home sales last month were at their strongest sales pace since early 2021, but first-time home buyers are accounting for a declining share of activity,” added Kan.

The latest read on home prices from S&P Case-Shiller showed prices up nearly 20% nationally, but the annual gain, which has been rising steadily for the past year, did not change from the previous month. That could be a sign that higher mortgage rates are taking at least a little bit of the heat out of prices.

Mortgage rates edged down slightly to start this week, but that could just be a brief reprieve before next week. The Federal Reserve is widely expected to announce next Wednesday that it will taper its purchases of mortgage-backed bonds. That should send rates even higher.