Real Estate

Mortgage volume gives back big gains, down 28%

Mortgage apps retreat

Mortgage applications plummeted 27.6 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis for the week that ended Friday from the previous week, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday.

The drop comes as no surprise, given the 25.5 percent jump the week before, just ahead of the implementation of new mortgage disclosure rules (which go by the acronym TRID). Lenders had to make major changes to their loan processing systems, and the fear was that this would slow applications; borrowers, therefore, rushed to get applications in before the rules went into effect on Oct. 3.

"The prior week's results evidently pulled forward much of the volume that would have more naturally taken place into this week," said Michael Fratantoni, the association's chief economist. "Purchase volume for the week was below last year's pace, the first year-over-year decrease since February 2015, while refinance volume dropped sharply even with little change in mortgage rates."

A sign offering mortgage help at a Bank of America branch, New York City.
Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Applications to refinance fell 23 percent last week, seasonally adjusted, and applications to purchase a home fell a sharp 34 percent. Purchase volume is now 1 percent below the same week one year ago.

"Purchase loans are likely to be more impacted by the regulatory change, as the closing dates tend to be more sensitive than those for refinance transactions," Fratantoni said.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) remained unchanged at 3.99 percent, with points increasing to 0.53 from 0.46 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio loans.

"Whether we look at TRID implementation likely boosting purchase applications or the impressive mortgage rate rally obviously juicing refinance demand, we have abrupt reversals in both of those things this past week. In other words, rates erased the gains and the TRID deadline has passed. Back to reality," said Matthew Graham, chief operating officer of Mortgage News Daily.

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While the weekly drop was expected, the weakness in purchase applications from a year ago is yet another indicator of a slowdown in home buying. Both real estate agents and homebuilders reported weaker buyer traffic in September, according to monthly surveys by Credit Suisse.

"Agents blamed the slower conditions on a limited supply of desirable inventory compounded by sellers' preference to price aggressively. At the same time, many spoke to diminishing urgency, as buyers express resistance to current price levels," Credit Suisse analysts Michael Dahl and Matthew Bouley wrote in a report.