Homebuyers boost their borrowing

Close up hand of man signing signature loan document to home ownership. Mortgage and real estate property investment
Monster Ztudio / Shutterstock
Homebuyers have stepped up their borrowing.

Overall mortgage applications rose 2.7% during the week ending May 22, led by a 9% jump in applications for loans to buy homes, as opposed to refinancing, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported Wednesday.

Demand for so-called purchase loans has grown for six straight weeks and has surged 54% since early April, says Joel Kan, the trade group's associate vice president of forecasting.

"The housing market is continuing its path to recovery as various states reopen, leading to more buyers resuming their home search," Kan says.

Refinancing has slowed but is still sizzling versus last year, as homeowners look to chop their monthly payments and interest costs. The mortgage bankers say refinance requests slipped 0.2% last week but were up a hefty 176% compared to the same week in 2019.

In other words, refi applications were at nearly triple the number lenders were seeing one year ago. Refinances last week accounted for 62.6% of all mortgage applications, down from 64.3% a week earlier

If you're buying or refinancing, the calculator below shows the low monthly payments that are possible with today's cheap mortgage rates.

The 2 big reasons buyers are buying

Analyst holds down arrow near the wooden houses.
Andrii Yalanskyi / Shutterstock
Homebuyers are feeling the pull of falling home prices and mortgage rates.

Homebuyers are so motivated that during the week of May 17, demand for houses was 16.5% higher than pre-COVID-19 levels, reports the real estate brokerage Redfin.

"The pandemic has people re-evaluating their lifestyle and their goals. People who were considering a move two or three years down the line are pulling the trigger now," says Tiffany Aquino, a Redfin agent in Virginia, in a news release.

Plus, two big trends are making the housing market more attractive for homebuyers and are reeling them in.

They're being drawn to bargain prices for houses. The U.S. Census Bureau reported this week that new homes sold in April at a median price of $309,900, down 8.6% from a year earlier and down 5.2% from the March median selling price of $326,900.

"A 5% monthly drop in new home prices points to builders eager to make deals," says Zillow economist Matthew Speakman, writing in his blog.

The other major reason Americans are stepping up their homebuying is so they won't miss out as mortgage rates go lower and lower and lower.

Though the Mortgage Bankers Association says its new survey has 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaging 3.42%, Mortgage News Daily on Tuesday reported an average rate of just 3.08%. And 30-year rates below 3% are already out there — but you have to shop around and know where to look for them.

Ready to get out there and go house hunting? Take a look at today's best mortgage rates where you live.

About the Author

Doug Whiteman

Doug Whiteman

Editor-in-Chief

Doug Whiteman is the editor-in-chief of MoneyWise. He has been quoted by The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and CNBC.com and has been interviewed on Fox Business, CBS Radio and the syndicated TV show "First Business."

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