A survey of lenders shows applications for mortgages down 15 percent for the week ending Feb. 20, even with rates hovering near historic lows.

While applications for government-insured purchase loans held steady, applications for refinance loans were down a seasonally adjusted 19.1 percent from the week before, the Mortgage Bankers Association said.

A survey of lenders shows applications for mortgages down 15 percent for the week ending Feb. 20, even with rates hovering near historic lows.

While applications for government-insured purchase loans held steady, applications for refinance loans were down a seasonally adjusted 19.1 percent from the week before, the Mortgage Bankers Association said.

Purchase loan applications fell by 2.6 percent, driven by a 4.4 percent decline in applications for conventional loans. Applications for government-insured purchase loans, largely FHA, were up 0.8 percent.

Applications for refinance loans accounted for 69.7 percent of applications, down from 74.2 percent the week before. Applications for adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) loans increased from 1.7 percent of total applications to 1.9 percent.

Freddie Mac reported today that interest rates were little changed this week, with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaging 5.07 percent with an average 0.7 point. That’s essentially unchanged from 5.04 percent last week, and considerably lower than the 6.24 percent rate a year ago.

Lower house prices and affordable mortgage rates have yet to spur housing demand, said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist.

Home prices declined by 8.7 percent for the 12 months ending in December 2008 and were down 10.9 percent from their highs set in April of 2007, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s purchase-only monthly home-price index. The index excludes homes purchased with mortgages too large or risky for purchase or guarantee by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

The National Association of Realtors today said the median price of resale homes in January was down 14.8 percent from a year ago, but that the inventory of homes for sale eased by 5.9 percent during the same 12-month period, to 9.6 months (see story). The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller National Home Price Index shows home prices falling 18.2 percent year-over-year during the fourth quarter (see story).

Freddie Mac said the 15-year FRM averaged 4.68 percent this week with an average 0.7 point, unchanged from last week but down from 5.72 percent a year ago.

Five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) averaged 5.06 percent with an average 0.7 point, up from 5.04 percent last week but down from 5.43 percent a year ago.

One-year Treasury-indexed ARMs averaged 4.81 percent with an average 0.6 point, up from 4.8 percent last week but down from 5.11 percent a year ago.

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