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Mortgage applications fall 4.6% as rates rise

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A for sale sign is posted in front of a home as interest rates for home loans climbed to nearly 4% in the wake of the election of Donald Trump to be the U.S. president on November 17, 2016 in Miami, Florida.

A few weeks ago, it looked like interest rates were on their way down again, but that was short-lived. So was the surge in mortgage application volume that went along with it.

Interest rates rose last week, and consequently total mortgage application volume fell 4.6 percent from the previous week. The Mortgage Bankers Association’s seasonally adjusted weekly index now stands down 19 percent from the same week one year ago.

The drop affected all types of applications, but those to purchase a home fell the hardest — 6 percent for the week. This may have less to do with the rise in rates and more to do with the lack of homes for sale. The drought in supply continues to push prices higher and clearly sidelined more buyers. Purchase applications remained 10 percent higher from the same week one year ago.

Higher home prices are now showing up in mortgage applications. The average loan amount on purchase applications last week increased to $317,000, the highest since May.

Mortgage applications to refinance a home loan fell 3 percent for the week and are down 36 percent from a year ago, when interest rates were higher. The MBA is now forecasting a 28 percent drop in refinance originations next year because interest rates are expected to rise further.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances of $424,100 or less increased to 4.18 percent last week from 4.14 percent the previous week, with points decreasing to 0.42 from 0.44, including the origination fee, for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio loans.

“Rates increased late last week as the market responded to news of a Senate budget plan which may positively impact tax reform progress and more speculation around the future leadership of the Federal Reserve,” said Joel Kan, an MBA economist.

The 30-year fixed rate last week was at its highest level since July, and it continued to rise this week, ahead of a policy announcement expected Thursday from the European Central Bank.

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