Weekly mortgage applications drop 0.5%, but jumbo loans get cheaper

Perhaps it is the August lull or the start of a more prolonged slowdown in the housing market, but homeowners and homebuyers seem unimpressed by the lowest mortgage interest rates of the year.

Total mortgage application volume barely moved last week, down 0.5 percent from the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. That's the second consecutive seasonally adjusted week of minimal moves.

Mortgage applications to refinance a home loan rose 0.3 percent from the previous week and are 38 percent lower than the same week one year ago, when rates were lower. The refinance share of total applications did rise to its highest level since January, at 48.7 percent of total applications.

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The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances of $424,100 or less remained unchanged from the week prior, at 4.12 percent, with points increasing to 0.39 from 0.38, including the origination fee, for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio loans. That is the lowest rate since the week of the Nov. 8 presidential election.

The average interest rate for jumbo loans, greater than $421,100, however, fell 5 basis points to 3.99 percent for the week. The jumbo rate is now 13 basis points lower than the conforming rate, the largest spread between the two since March 2016.

"A strong appetite for jumbo loans and a highly competitive jumbo market has led to increased availability and lower pricing of jumbo loans over the past few years," said Joel Kan, an MBA economist.

There may be a strong appetite for larger loans, but overall mortgage applications to purchase a home fell 2 percent for the week. They are 9 percent higher than the same week one year ago.

Much of the housing demand today is on the low, entry-level end, but tight supply and high prices are keeping potential buyers at bay. Actual sales are occurring more on the higher end of the market, which explains the strong demand for jumbo loans.

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