Mortgage applications to buy a home fell last week to the lowest level in nearly two decades, according to a weekly survey from the Mortgage Bankers Association.
The report is a clear sign of weakness in buyer demand heading into the usually busy spring housing season.
(Chart of the Day: Mortgage apps plunge)
"Purchase applications were little changed on an unadjusted basis last week, but this is the time of a year we would expect a significant pickup in purchase activity, and we are not yet seeing it," said Mike Fratantoni, the association's chief economist.
Total application volume fell 8.5 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from a week earlier, while the Refinance Index was down 11 percent from the previous week.
The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 4 percent from one week earlier, to the lowest level since 1995.
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While higher rates have pushed refinances way down from their boom levels, causing banks to fire employees, applications to buy a home were expected to rise. They are now down over 15 percent from a year ago, however.
Unusually bad weather has been blamed for weak home sales and buyer traffic in much of the nation this winter, but sales in January fell the most in the West, where weather was not a factor.
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