Mortgage Applications Reach Lowest Level in 25+ Years

Amid current economic conditions and the typically low demand for mortgages at year-end, mortgage applications at the end of December reached the lowest level since 1996, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Mortgage applications of all types for the week ending Dec. 30 decreased 13.2 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from two weeks earlier, the MBA said in a statement. The results also included adjustments to account for the holidays. On an unadjusted basis, the MBA’s weekly mortgage tracker showed a decrease of 39.4 percent compared with two weeks ago.

Both refinance and purchase activity fell during those final two weeks of December. The MBA’s refinance activity tracker, seasonally adjusted and adjusted for the holidays, decreased 13.2 percent from two weeks ago and was 87 percent lower compared to the same week a year ago. The seasonally adjusted purchase activity tracker decreased 12.2 percent from two weeks earlier. The unadjusted purchase activity decreased 38.5 percent compared with two weeks ago and was 42 percent lower than the same week one year ago.

“The end of the year is typically a slower time for the housing market, and with mortgage rates still well above 6 percent and the threat of a recession looming, mortgage applications continued to decline over the past two weeks to the lowest level since 1996,” Joel Kan, MBA’s vice president and deputy chief economist, said in a statement. “Purchase applications have been impacted by slowing home sales in both the new and existing segments of the market. Even as home-price growth slows in many parts of the country, elevated mortgage rates continue to put a strain on affordability and are keeping prospective homebuyers out of the market.”

The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 30.3 percent of total applications last week compared to 28.8 percent during the week ending Dec. 23.

“Refinance applications remain less than a third of the market and were 87 percent lower than a year ago as rates remained close to double what they were in 2021,” Kan said. “Mortgage rates are lower than October 2022 highs, but would have to decline substantially to generate additional refinance activity.”

The adjustable-rate mortgage share of total mortgage activity decreased to 7.6 percent of total applications. The FHA share of total applications increased to 14 percent from 13.1 percent the week prior. The VA share of total applications increased to 13.4 percent compared to 12 percent in the week prior.

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