November is not historically a strong season for homebuying, but this one, like the rest of 2020, isn't following any rules.
Homebuyer demand is surging again, after taking a slight break around the election.
Mortgage applications to purchase a home rose 4% for the week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's seasonally adjusted index. Volume was a decisive 26% higher annually. Demand had fallen off for about a month around the election, even though mortgage rates hovered near a record low.
"Housing demand remains supported by the ongoing recovery in the job market, and an increased appetite from households seeking more space because of the pandemic," said Joel Kan, MBA's associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting.
Continued low mortgage rates are also boosting the demand. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($510,400 or less) increased to 2.99% from 2.98%, with points increasing to 0.37 from 0.35 (including the origination fee) for loans with a 20% down payment.
Low rates are also keeping applications to refinance a home loan well above year-ago levels. Those applications were down slightly, 2%, for the week but were 98% higher than the same week one year ago. Thousands of borrowers have already refinanced, especially those with higher loan balances who stood to save more when rates dropped earlier this year.
"The refinance index decreased last week — driven by sharp declines in FHA and VA applications — but remained a robust 98 percent above a year ago," Kan said, adding that the average refinance loan balance of $291,000 last week was the lowest since January.