Weekly mortgage demand drops as homebuyers are rattled by the stock market

Potential home buyers walk past an 'Open House' sign displayed in the front yard of a property for sale in Columbus, Ohio.

Ty Wright | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Potential home buyers walk past an ‘Open House’ sign displayed in the front yard of a property for sale in Columbus, Ohio.

The spring housing market is in full swing, but wild stock market gyrations may be keeping some potential homebuyers at bay.

Total mortgage application volume fell 3.3 percent last week from the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s seasonally adjusted report.

Despite interest rates holding at their lowest level in two months, mortgage applications to purchase a home fell 2 percent for the week, the first decrease in a month. They were still 5 percent higher than a year ago.

“Potential homebuyers may be a little rattled by the swings in the stock market the past few weeks, but the job market continues to strengthen, which should power demand through the spring season,” said Mike Fratantoni, chief economist for the MBA. “The main uncertainty remains whether enough listings will be available to meet this demand.”

While new listings have come on for the spring market, inventory is still down double digits from a year ago, and home price gains continue to accelerate.

“Our latest inventory data tells us buyers are out in full force this spring. Never in history have there been more eyes on fewer homes than today,” said Javier Vivas, director of research at Realtor.com.

Applications to refinance a home loan fell even more, down 5 percent for the week, despite no change in interest rates. They were 11 percent lower than a year ago, when rates were lower. Mortgage rates have moved decisively higher this year, leaving fewer borrowers with any incentive to refinance. The refinance share of mortgage activity is now at its lowest in a decade.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($453,100 or less) remained unchanged at 4.69 percent, with points remaining unchanged at 0.43 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio loans.

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