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Mortgage applications jump 7.1% as lowest rates since election send homebuyers rushing to lock in

  • Interest rates finally slid last week, and mortgage volume jumped accordingly, up 7.1 percent.
  • Loan applications to purchase a home jumped 10 percent from the previous week.
  • Purchase application volume increased to its highest level since May 2010.
Prospective buyers look at a home for sale in Denver, Colorado.
Matthew Staver | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Prospective buyers look at a home for sale in Denver, Colorado.

Homebuyers and homeowners saw a rip in the ever-rising interest rate continuum last week and jumped right in.

Interest rates fell last week to the lowest level since November, and the seasonally adjusted mortgage volume jumped accordingly, up 7.1 percent, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Still, volume was 16 percent lower than the same week a year ago, when rates were lower.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances of $424,100 or less decreased to 4.14 percent, from 4.17 percent, with points increasing to 0.34 from 0.32, including the origination fee, for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio loans. As a reference point, mortgage rates jumped from 3.77 percent to 4.16 percent in the two weeks following the election of Donald Trump last November.

"Purchase application volume increased to its highest level since May 2010. Refinance activity bumped up as well in response to moderating rates, but remained generally subdued," said Joel Kan, an MBA economist.

Loan applications to purchase a home jumped 10 percent from the previous week, seasonally adjusted, and now stand 5.5 percent higher than one year ago. Purchase volume has been decidedly weak this spring, as home prices overheat due to the tight supply of homes for sale.

Affordability, clearly an issue, shows up in the types of loans borrowers seek. Applications for fixed-rate loans are down 18 percent from a year ago, while applications for adjustable-rate loans, which offer lower interest rates, are up 26 percent.

The refinance market got a little boost from low rates as well last week, increasing 3 percent. Refinances are extremely rate-sensitive, and rates were below 4 percent last year. Refinance volume remains 34 percent lower than one year ago.

Mortgage rates continued to slide this week, and Thursday's much-anticipated hearing on Capitol Hill, where former FBI Director James Comey is scheduled to testify, could either accelerate that slide or reverse it.

"The potential shock is the unknown outcome of Comey's congressional testimony. It might not hit markets during business hours, and it might not hit markets at all," said Matthew Graham, chief operating officer of Mortgage News Daily. "But there is a chance that it could cause a very big movement for better or worse."