Homebuyer demand pushes mortgage applications higher, even as interest rates inch up again

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An “Open House” flag is seen in front of a home for sale in Alhambra, California on January 18, 2024. 

Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images

Mortgage rates rose slightly last week, but that did not seem to deter homebuyers who have come back after the holidays.

Mortgage applications to purchase a home rose 8% last week compared with the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s seasonally adjusted index. Demand, however, was still 18% lower than the same week one year ago, when rates were lower.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($726,200 or less) increased to 6.78% from 6.75%, and points rose to 0.63 from 0.62 (including the origination fee) for loans with a 20% down payment.

“Mortgage rates increased slightly last week, but there continues to be an upward trend in purchase activity,” said Joel Kan, an MBA economist, in a release. “Conventional and FHA purchase applications drove most of the increase last week as some buyers moved to act early this season.”

Applications to refinance a home loan fell 7% for the week and were 8% lower than a year ago. With rates still higher than they were last year, and significantly above where they were two years ago when refinancing was booming, there is little incentive for most borrowers.

Mortgage rates moved higher at the start of this week, although there appears to be no particular reason for the increase. The average rate on the 30-year fixed, according to Mortgage News Daily, is now 6.92%.

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