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Homebuyers finally fuel mortgage volume, applications up 10%

It took a few weeks, but near record low mortgage rates may be pushing more homebuyers into this spring's housing market.

Total mortgage application volume jumped 10 percent last week from the previous week on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Refinance applications have been surging for weeks and gained 11 percent last week, seasonally adjusted. Mortgage applications to purchase a home, which fell two weeks ago despite lower rates, kicked into gear last week, rising a solid 9 percent from the previous week and 24 percent compared with one year ago. This is the second-highest level for purchase applications since May 2010.

Mortgage apps
Anne Cusack | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

"Rates dropped last week in response to concerns about further slowing in global growth, despite the fact that the U.S. job market continues to show real strength," said Michael Fratantoni, MBA's chief economist. "Rates also are increasingly volatile as markets react to different signals regarding the future path for the Fed. This drop in rates is providing what will likely be only a temporary boost in re-fi activity."

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) decreased to 3.82 percent from 3.86 percent, with points increasing to 0.33 from 0.32 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio loans. This is the lowest since January 2015, according to the MBA.


"I'm getting a lot of reports from lenders about their clients who missed opportunities to lock in mid to late February, and who finally saw rates move low enough to pull the trigger," said Matthew Graham, chief operating officer of Mortgage News Daily. "The current week is still up in the air, but rates had been holding their ground through Tuesday, despite some ominous weakness in underlying bond markets."

More data on the U.S. economy being released later this week could push interest rates in either direction, but some analysts now believe they could break to a record low in the coming months.