Homebuyer mortgage demand jumps as interest rates hit two-month low

Homes in Centreville, Maryland, US, on Tuesday, April 4, 2023. 

Nathan Howard | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Today’s housing market is so pricey that homebuyers are highly sensitive to any distinct moves in mortgage rates. And that’s what happened last week. Rates dropped, and buyers dove in.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($726,200 or less) decreased to 6.30% from 6.40%, with points decreasing to 0.55 from 0.59, including the origination fee, for loans with a 20% down payment, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. That was a weekly average decline, but a sharper, one-day drop smack in the middle of the week was likely the impetus for demand.

“Incoming data last week showed that the job market is beginning to slow, which led to the 30-year fixed rate decreasing to 6.30% — the lowest level in two months,” said Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s SVP and chief economist.

Mortgage applications to purchase a home rose 8% last week, compared with the previous week. They were, however, 31% lower than the same week one year ago, when interest rates were significantly lower. Buyers have been up against not only higher rates and higher home prices, but very limited supply.

Applications to refinance a home loan were less reactive, basically flat week to week and 57% lower than the same week a year ago. At today’s interest rates, there are very few borrowers who can benefit from a refinance. For those looking to tap their home equity, they are largely opting for second loans rather than cash-out refinances.

Mortgage rates moved higher to start this week, and they could move decidedly in either direction after the government’s monthly report on inflation is released Wednesday.

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