Surge in mortgage applications driven by refi requests

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Lower mortgage rates are fueling demand for home loans, but don’t get too excited yet — most borrowers are looking to refinance an existing home, not take out a purchase mortgage.

The Mortgage Bankers Association’s weekly survey of lenders showed applications for refinancing were up 11 percent the week ending Oct. 10 from the week before, and that refi requests accounted for 59 percent of all applications — the highest level since February.

Applications for purchase loans were down 4 percent from the same time a year ago, and fell a seasonally adjusted 1 percent from the week before.

Growing concerns about weak economic growth in Europe caused a flight to quality into safer investments, leading to “sharp drops in interest rates,” MBA Chief Economist Mike Fratantoni said in a statement. Mortgage rates for most loan products fell to their lowest level since June 2013, Fratantoni said.

Because they’re guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Ginnie Mae and Freddie Mac, mortgage-backed securities that fund most U.S. home loans are seen as safe havens by investors. Source: mortgagebankers.org.