Sharp Rise in Rates Doesn’t Deter Buyers

May 6, 2015

Mortgage applications for home purchases – viewed as a gauge of future home buying activity – posted only a slight gain at 1 percent last week, but applications are at the highest level since June 2013, the Mortgage Bankers Association reports. In a broader look, mortgage applications for home purchases are 12 percent higher now than a year ago.

However, refinancing applications fell 8.3 percent week-to-week, reaching its lowest level since January. This caused MBA’s seasonally adjusted index reflecting total mortgage applications – for both refinancing and home purchases – to plunge 4.6 percent last week compared to the previous week as interest rates ticked up.

MBA reports the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.93 percent last week, up from 3.85 percent the prior week.

"While rates do eventually create downward pressure on purchase demand, it's not nearly as immediate or pronounced as the effect on refinance activity," Matthew Graham of Mortgage News Daily told CNBC. "Additionally, rate spikes tend to motivate fence-sitters, or other prospective buyers, who otherwise might have taken more time shopping around."

What’s more, a lot of the sales activity lately appears to be centered on the higher end of the housing market, which tends to be less rate sensitive, housing analysts say.

Case in point, "the average loan amount for a purchase application reached a record high, a sign that the mix of purchase activity is still skewed toward higher priced homes," says Mike Fratantoni, MBA's chief economist.

Source: “Weekly Mortgage Applications Drop 4.6% on Higher Rates,” CNBC (May 6, 2015)