Real Estate

Lowest mortgage rates since election push refinances up 7%

Key Points
  • Total mortgage application volume rose 2.7 percent last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
  • Volume was 18 percent lower compared with the same week one year ago.
Prospective first-time buyers leave a home for sale after a tour in St. Clair Shores, Michigan.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The refinance market came back to life last week, as mortgage rates fell further. Homebuyers, however, were not as easily swayed by rates.

Total mortgage application volume rose 2.7 percent, seasonally adjusted, for the week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Volume was 18 percent lower compared with the same week one year ago.

Mortgage refinance volume remains far weaker than it was last year, when interest rates were lower, but it did rise 7 percent week to week as rates sank to the lowest level since just after following the presidential election. The size of the average refinance loan also increased, as large-balance borrowers are more rate sensitive. Refinances are still 34 percent below where they were a year ago.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances of $424,100 or less decreased to 4.20 percent from 4.22 percent, with points increasing to 0.37 from 0.35, including the origination fee, for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio loans.

"The drop was driven by continued investor concerns about the French election, though Sunday's first-round voting results apparently have alleviated some investor fears," said Lynn Fisher, MBA vice president of research and economics.

Homebuyers were less concerned with mortgage rates and more frustrated with the lack of homes for sale. Mortgage applications to purchase a home fell 1 percent for the week and are just 0.4 percent higher than the same week last year. The supply of homes for sale continues to drop amid strong demand and low production from the nation's homebuilders.

Mortgage rates may eventually become a bigger concern. They began rising again this week, as investors turned from the French election to the possibility of U.S. tax reform.

"In general, investors have piled back into riskier assets like stocks because the French election reduces long-term risks to the European Union," said Matthew Graham, chief operating officer of Mortgage News Daily. "The prospects for tax reform have a similar effect in that they encourage investors to favor riskier assets at the expense of bonds. When demand for bonds decreases relative to supply, rates move higher."