Mortgage refinance demand continues its free fall, as interest rates rise again

Finance news

Rising mortgage interest rates continue to take their toll on demand, especially in the refinance market. Total mortgage application volume fell 2.8% last week compared with the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s seasonally adjusted index.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($548,250 or less) increased to 3.20% from 3.16%, with points rising to 0.43 from 0.34 (including the origination fee) for loans with a 20% down payment.

As a result, refinance demand fell 5% for the week and was 31% lower than the same week one year ago. Refinance applications have dropped in seven of the past eight weeks. The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 62.9% of total applications from 63.5% the previous week.

“Activity has been particularly sensitive to rate movements, and last week’s decline was driven by a drop in conventional and FHA refinance applications, which offset an increase in VA refinance applications.” said Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting.

Real estate agents leave a home for sale during a broker open house in San Francisco, California.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Mortgage applications to purchase a home, which are less sensitive to weekly rate moves, rose 2% for the week but were 6% lower than the same week one year ago. Buyers appear to be coming back to the market after a brief lull. Builders reported strong buyer traffic in a sentiment report out this week from the National Association of Home Builders.

“Purchase applications increased for both conventional and government loan segments, as housing demand continues to show resiliency at a time – late fall – when home buying activity typically slows. The second straight increase in purchase applications suggests that stronger sales activity may continue in the weeks to come,” said Kan.

Mortgage rates continued to move higher to start this week and are now at the highest level in more than three weeks. Rates were influenced Tuesday by a report on October’s retail sales, which rose by 1.7%, making it the strongest month in several years. 

“In general, strong economic data puts upward pressure on rates. Economists were only expecting a 1.4% increase after last month’s 0.8% improvement,” said Matthew Graham, chief operating officer at Mortgage News Daily.