U.S. Home Refinancings Drop to 18-Year Low

A weekly measurement of refinancing activity showed a 5% decline even though mortgage rates fell for the first time in seven weeks.
Matthew HellerNovember 23, 2018

U.S. home refinancing activity hit an 18-year low last week even though mortgage rates dipped, ending six straight weekly increases.

In its latest weekly survey of mortgage applications, the Mortgage Bankers Association said its refinance index fell 5.0% to 783.7 in the week ended Nov. 16, the lowest level since December 2000.

Although the MBA’s index on loan applications to buy a home rose to 3.1% for its biggest weekly gain since the July 5 week, overall mortgage activity edged lower by 0.1% to 316.4, the lowest reading since December 2014 .

“The mixed readings came as most borrowing costs fell with lower Treasury yields as investors moved into bonds due to volatility in the stock market,” Reuters reported.

The MBA said interest rates on 30-year conforming mortgages whose balances are $453,100 or less on average edged down to 5.16% from the prior week’s 5.17%, which was the highest since April 2010. Other mortgage rates tracked by the association were unchanged to down 10 basis points last week.

Data released by Freddie Mac last week show mortgage rates experienced the biggest one-week drop in nearly four years.

According to the MBA, the refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 38.5% of total home loan applications last week from 39.4% the previous week, the smallest share since December 2000.

MarketWatch noted that applications for newly-constructed houses are now lower than year-ago levels by double digits.

“The recent stock market volatility is likely causing some potential buyers to be more cautious,” Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist, told The Washington Post. “Purchase mortgage applications continued their recent trend of falling slightly below year-ago levels.”

Mortgage industry experts aren’t expecting a further slide in interest rates this week.

“It seems like we have reached a temporary floor when it comes to mortgage rates and Treasury yields,” Jim Burrington, a mortgage loan officer at Grande Financial, said. Given last week’s drop and this week’s light trading volumes due to the Thanksgiving holiday, he added, “I don’t see much of a chance for further improvement.”

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