Lenders continued to tighten credit standards in June as higher mortgage rates slowed refinance and purchase activity.

The monthly Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI) fell by 0.3% in June, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. A decline of the index, benchmarked to 100 in March 2012, indicates lending standards are tightening, while an increase suggests loosening credit. 

Credit availability was mixed by loan type. The conventional MCAI rose 1.2% while the government MCAI dipped by 1.7%. Of the component indices of the conventional MCAI, the jumbo MCAI increased by 1.4% and the conforming MCAI climbed by 0.6%. 

“Mortgage credit availability decreased slightly in June, as significantly higher mortgage rates compared to a year ago slowed refinance and purchase activity and impacted the overall mortgage credit landscape,” said Joel Kan, associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting at the MBA. 

Purchase mortgage rates, measured by the Freddie Mac PMMS Index, were at 5.3% last week. While rates are on a downward trend due to concerns about a potential recession, they remain well above last year’s 2.9% 30-year purchase rate. 

Borrowers’ demand for mortgage loans fell last week driven by a 7.7% decline in refi applications and a 4.3% dip in purchase applications from the previous week, according to the MBA.

Although there was reduced supply of lower credit score and high loan-to-value (LTV) rate-term refinance programs, the decline was offset by increased offerings for conventional adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) and high balance loans, Kan said.

In a market with a shortage of inventory and soaring rates, an increasing number of homebuyers have been opting for ARMs this year, which carry lower rates for an initial period of fixed interest and amortize over a 30-year term. Application volume for ARMs hit a 14-year high in May, making up nearly 11% of all mortgage applications. Last week, it consisted of 9.5% of all mortgage applications. 

“With higher rates and elevated home prices, more prospective buyers are applying for ARMs, but activity remains below historical averages,” Kan said. 

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