Demand for purchase mortgages picked up last week to the highest level seen since the end of May, but remained nearly 40 percent below the same time last year, the Mortgage Bankers Association said in releasing the results of its Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey.

Requests to refinance accounted for 81.9 percent of mortgage applications during the week ending Sept. 3 — an indication that record-low interest rates are motivating existing homeowners to lock in a better rate, but aren’t getting would-be homebuyers off the fence.

An index measuring demand for purchase mortgages was up a seasonally adjusted 6.3 percent from one week earlier, but was 38.8 percent lower than the same week a year ago.

An index measuring applications for refinancing was down 3.1 percent from the previous week — the first time that’s happened in six weeks. Since more than eight in 10 loan applications were for refinancings, an index measuring total application volume was down a seasonally adjusted 1.5 percent from the previous week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 4.5 percent from 4.43 percent, with points decreasing to 0.96 from 1.34 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value (LTV) ratio loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 4 percent from 3.88 percent, with points decreasing to 0.87 from 1.45 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for one-year ARMs increased to 7 percent from 6.95 percent, with points decreasing to 0.21 from 0.23 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans.

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