Weakening economic outlook, high inflation and affordability challenges took a toll on buyer demand, leading to a drop in both purchase and refi applications last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA).
The market composite index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, declined 6.3% for the week ending July 15, the MBA said. The refinance index dipped 4% from the previous week, falling to a 22-year low, and the purchase index decreased 7%.
“Mortgage applications declined for the third week in a row, reaching the lowest level since 2000,” Joel Kan, associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting at MBA. “The decline in recent purchase applications aligns with slower homebuilding activity due to reduced buyer traffic and ongoing building material shortages and higher costs.”
New U.S. home building activity fell 2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.56 million units in June, marking a nine-month low since September 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Permits for future homebuilding fell 0.6%, to a rate of 1.69 million units, also the lowest since September.
While the refinance share of all mortgage activity slightly increased from 30.8% the previous week to 31.4% of total applications, the refi index was 80% lower than the same week a year ago.
“With most mortgage rates more than two percentage points higher than a year ago, demand for refinances continues to plummet,” Kan said.
Mortgage rates have been volatile in recent weeks, following the Federal Reserve‘s interest rate hike of 75 basis points last month. After falling 40 bps two weeks ago to 5.30%, purchase mortgage rates climbed back last week to 5.5%, according to the latest Freddie Mac PMMS. A year ago at this time, 30-year fixed-rate purchase rates were at 2.88%.
The trade group estimates the average contract 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for conforming loans ($647,200 or less) rose to 5.82%, from the previous week’s 5.74%. Jumbo mortgage loans (greater than $647,200) also increased to 5.31% from 5.25%.
The Federal Housing Administration‘s (FHA) share of total applications rose to 12.4% from the previous week’s 11.7%. The United States Department of Agriculture‘s (USDA) share also increased to 0.6% from the week prior’s 0.5%. Meanwhile, the Veterans Affairs‘ (VA) share of total applications fell to 10.6% from 11.2%.
The share of adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM) applications also declined, accounting for 9.5%. According to the MBA, the average interest rate for a 5/1 ARM decreased to 4.6% from 4.71% a week prior.
The survey, conducted weekly since 1990, covers 75% of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications.