Rising interest rates dented homebuyer demand for purchase mortgages for a third week in a row last week, with requests to refinance also falling sharply, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey.
For the week ending Feb. 18, the survey showed applications for purchase loans were down a seasonally adjusted 10 percent week over week, and 6 percent from a year ago. Requests to refinance were down 16 percent from the previous week and 56 percent from a year ago.
“Higher mortgage rates have quickly shut off refinances, with activity down in six of the first seven weeks of 2022,” said MBA forecaster Joel Kan, in a statement. “Conventional refinances in particular saw a 17 percent decrease last week. Purchase applications, already constrained by elevated sales prices and tight inventory, have also been impacted by these higher rates and declined for the third straight week.”
Requests to refinance accounted for just 50.1 percent of all mortgage applications, compared to 68.5 percent a year ago, when mortgage rates were a full percentage point lower.
The MBA survey reported average rates for the following types of loans last week:
- For 30-year fixed-rate conforming mortgages (loan balances of $647,200 or less), rates averaged 4.06 percent, up from 4.05 percent the week before. With points increasing to 0.48 from 0.45 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans, the effective rate also increased.
- Rates for 30-year fixed-rate jumbo mortgages (loan balances greater than $647,200) averaged 3.84 percent, up from 3.81 percent the week before. With points increasing to 0.45 from 0.39 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans, the effective rate also increased.
- For 30-year fixed-rate FHA mortgages, rates averaged 4.09 percent, up from 4.01 percent the week before. While points decreased to 0.56 from 0.59 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans, the effective rate still increased.
- Rates for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, popular with homeowners who are refinancing, averaged 3.42 percent, up from 3.37 percent the week before. Although points decreased to 0.45 from 0.50 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans, the effective rate still increased.
- For 5/1 adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs), rates averaged 3.26 percent, down from 3.36 percent. With points decreasing to 0.34 from 0.48 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans, the effective rate also decreased from last week.
Although the vast majority of borrowers still prefer fixed-rate loans, ARM loans are starting to look more attractive. Last week, 5.1 percent of all applications were for ARM loans, up from 2.7 percent a year ago.
Requests for FHA mortgages increased to 8.7 percent, up from 8.3 percent the previous week but down from 11.2 percent a year ago. VA mortgages accounted for 9.9 percent of applications, up from 9.3 percent the week before but down from 11.9 percent a year ago.
According to a daily index of rate lock data compiled by Optimal Blue, rates for conforming 30-year fixed-rate mortgages surged above 4 percent on Feb. 10 for the first time since December 2019. The prospect of rapid Fed tightening has prompted bond market investors who fund most mortgages to demand higher yields.
Speaking at the American Bankers Association Community Banking Conference in Palm Desert, California Monday, Federal Reserve Board of Governors member Michelle Bowman said she expects “uncomfortably high inflation” to persist “at least through the first half of 2022.”
Bowman said she supports raising the federal funds rate at the Fed’s next meeting, which concludes on March 16.
While the Fed typically raises the federal funds rate by a quarter percentage point at a time, some members of the Federal Open Market Committee are expected to push for a 50-basis-point increase.
Bowman said she “will be watching the data closely to judge the appropriate size of an increase at the March meeting.”