Purchase mortgage apps defy surging rates

Despite mortgage rates reaching the highest level in 14 years, mortgage applications increased 4.2% from the prior week, according to the latest Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) survey for the week ending June 17.

“Mortgage rates continued to surge last week, with the 30-year fixed mortgage rate jumping 33 basis points to 5.98% – the highest since November 2008 and the largest single-week increase since 2009,” Joel Kan, associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting for the trade group, said in a statement. 

Rates for mortgage loans were strongly impacted by tightening monetary policy to combat rising inflation. On June 10, the U.S. Consumer Price Index showed an 8.6% increase year-over-year in May, the highest level in four decades. Consequently, the Federal Reserve raised the federal funds rate by 75 basis points last week, a rate hike not seen since 1994. Another 0.75% hike is expected from the Fed’s meeting in July.

With mortgage rates now at almost double what they were a year ago, refinancing applications decreased 3% from the prior week and were 77% lower than the same week in 2021. Refis were 29.7% of total applications last week, decreasing from 31.7% the previous week, the survey shows.

Meanwhile, the seasonally adjusted purchase index ticked up 8% from the prior week but was 9.4% down from the same week a year ago. According to Kan, purchase applications increased for the second straight week, driven mainly by conventional applications. 

Higher rates usually cool off prices, and Kan noted a potential trend in this week’s data. “The average loan size, at just over $420,000, is well below its $460,000 peak earlier this year and is potentially a sign that home price growth is moderating,” the economist said. 

The adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM) share of applications jumped to over 10.6%, demonstrating continued popularity among borrowers. The average interest rate for a 5/1 ARM rose to 4.78% from 4.57% a week prior, according to the MBA

The FHA share of total applications increased to 12% from 11.8% the week prior. Meanwhile, the VA share went from 11.7% to 10.7%. The USDA share of total applications declined to 0.5% from 0.6% the week prior. 

The trade group estimates the average contract 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for conforming loans ($647,200 or less) increased to 5.98%, from 5.65% the previous week. For jumbo mortgage loans (greater than $647,200), it went to 5.49% from 5.25%.

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