Mortgage demand fell last week even as rates declined slightly

A For Sale sign is posted in front of a property in Monterey Park, California on August 16, 2022.

Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images

Mortgage rates fell slightly last week, but not enough to fuel any kind of recovery in consumer demand for home loans.

Total mortgage application volume fell 2% from the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s seasonally adjusted index. Demand stands at the lowest level since 2000. It hit a similar low in July.

Applications for a mortgage to purchase a home dropped 1% for the week and were 18% lower than the same week one year ago. Potential homebuyers are not only grappling with higher interest rates but with inflation in the overall economy and concern that home values will start to fall.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($647,200 or less) decreased to 5.45% last week from 5.47% the previous week, with points decreasing to 0.57 from 0.80 (including the origination fee) for loans with a 20% down payment. The rate was just over 3% a year ago.

While mortgage rates have come down slightly from their recent highs, there are precious few borrowers who can benefit from a refinance. Those applications dropped 5% for the week and were 82% lower than the same week one year ago.

Mortgage rates haven’t moved much to start this week, but new economic data expected Wednesday could change that. The Federal Reserve is slated to release the minutes from its last meeting, offering more insight into its thinking, but investors are likely more interested in the monthly retail sales report, also set for release Wednesday.

“This one report wouldn’t be enough to change the narrative, but if it’s significantly stronger or weaker than expected, rates could be on the move well before the Fed Minutes come out at 2 p.m. ET,” said Matthew Graham, chief operating officer of Mortgage News Daily.

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