Refinance Activity Surges Despite Rising Mortgage Rates – Purchase Applications Fall

Last week, the interest rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages climbed past the 7 percent mark. Despite this increase, as the chart below illustrates, there was a significant 10 percent increase in refinancing applications. This is in sharp contrast to a 5 percent decline in purchase applications. The growth in the refinancing segment is notable, representing 33.3 percent of the total application volume, up from 30.3 percent the previous week. This surge in refinancing interest is particularly intriguing, given the highest reported 30-year mortgage rates in over a month, at 7.01 percent.

Joel Kan, MBA’s Vice President and Deputy Chief Economist, attributed the rising rates to the Federal Reserve’s cautious stance on adjusting policy amidst persistent inflation and resilient economic indicators, including strong employment data. Despite the unfavorable rate environment, the demand for refinancing, especially VA refinancing, remained robust.

Other notable trends include a decrease in average loan sizes, with purchase loan sizes—often viewed as a proxy for home prices—dropping to $449,400 from $453,000. Additionally, there was a shift in the composition of mortgage applications, with increases in FHA and VA loan shares.

So, what explains the rising number of homeowners refinancing their mortgages even with rising mortgage interest rates? There are numerous reports indicating that many homeowners across the country are becoming cash-strapped and having a difficult time paying bills, thus resorting to pulling out equity from their homes, even if it means accepting a higher interest rate. I’ve also observed reports indicating that consumer credit card debt is at historically high levels, with interest rates on this debt being astronomical. This situation is prompting people to refinance their home loans again, even at higher rates, because even though their mortgage may be at a higher rate, it still appears to be a bargain compared to the 27 or 28% on a credit card. I haven’t seen enough verifiable data to confirm if either of these situations is true, but both are plausible.

Refinance Index vs 30 Yr Fixed Mortgage Chart

(click on image for live, interactive chart)

Refinance Index vs 30 Yr Fixed Mortgage ChartHous

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