"MBA and other data are showing strength in the market for new homes, likely reflecting the boost from continued job growth in recent months," said Michael Fratantoni, chief economist for the MBA.
Mortgage applications are an indicator of future home sales, as consumers must secure the loan before closing on a property. Home builder sentiment rose in November, with the builders citing an increase in buyer traffic, according to a report Tuesday from the National Association of Home Builders.
Read MoreHome builder confidence jumps 4 points in November
Purchase applications are still running 6 percent below year-ago levels, and they are 9 percent lower than they were four weeks ago, on a non-seasonally adjusted basis.
"This is historically a volatile time of year for purchase applications, and MBA's seasonal adjustments made the difference," said Matthew Graham of Mortgage News Daily, noting that purchase applications were actually down 3 percent week to week unadjusted.
Whatever the adjustments or volatility, purchase application volume is anemic compared with historical norms. This smaller volume makes percentage moves up and down larger than they might normally be. This week's jump is certainly welcome for the housing recovery, but the trend needs to continue long-term to make a dent in the weakness.
Read MoreFederal Housing Administration back in the black
The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) decreased to 4.18 percent from 4.19 percent last week, according to the MBA. This week rates are edging slightly lower, with some of the best borrowers now getting quotes in the three percent range again.