December may be a slow month traditionally for the housing market, but mortgage lenders are suddenly getting busier. A sharp drop in interest rates drove mortgage application volume up 1.6 percent last week from the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's seasonally adjusted index.
Volume was 16 percent lower than a year ago.
The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($453,100 or less) decreased to 4.96 percent, the lowest level since September, from 5.08 percent, with points increasing to 0.48 from 0.44 (including the origination fee) for loans with 20 percent down payments. The rate drop was the largest single-week decline in over a year.