Mortgage demand shrinks as interest rates hit nearly 23-year high

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Ryan Ratliff (L), Real Estate Sales Associate with Re/Max Advance Realty, shows Ryan Paredes (R) and Ariadna Paredes a home for sale on April 20, 2023 in Cutler Bay, Florida. 

Joe Raedle | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Mortgage interest rates just hit a level not seen since the year 2000. As a result, mortgage demand is now sitting near a 27-year low.

Total mortgage application volume fell 1.3% last week compared with the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s seasonally adjusted index. Volume was 25.5% lower than the same week one year ago.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($726,200 or less) increased to 7.41%, from 7.31%, with points decreasing to 0.71 from 0.72 (including the origination fee) for loans with a 20% down payment. The rate was 6.52% one year ago.

The 30-year fixed jumbo mortgage rate increased to 7.34%, the highest rate in the history of the MBA’s jumbo rate series dating back to 2011.

“Based on the FOMC’s most recent projections, rates are expected to be higher for longer, which drove the increase in Treasury yields,” said Joel Kan, an MBA economist, referencing the Federal Open Market Committee. “Overall applications declined, as both prospective homebuyers and homeowners continue to feel the impact of these elevated rates.”

Applications to refinance a home loan fell 1% for the week and were 21% lower than they were one year ago. After record low interest rates throughout the first few years of the pandemic, and a refinance boom, there are precious few borrowers now with mortgage rates high enough to benefit from a refinance.

Applications for a mortgage to purchase a home fell 2% for the week and were 27% lower than the same week year over year.

Today’s potential buyers are facing an unprecedented dynamic of a historically low supply of homes for sale, coupled with both rising interest rates and rising prices. Higher interest rates historically throw cold water on home prices, but the supply and demand imbalance is so severe that it is pushing prices higher even though more and more buyers are unable to afford a home.

Interest rates continued to move higher this week, according to a separate survey from Mortgage News Daily. Even sales of newly built homes, which had been rising due to the short supply on the resale market, took a hit in August, according to another report this week. Sales dropped nearly 9% in August from July’s pace, hitting the lowest level since March.

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