Mortgage applications slipped 7.1% for the week ending March 15, marking the second straight week of declines, an industry trade group said Wednesday.
The Mortgage Bankers Association reported fewer applications as home purchase and refinancing activity thawed.
The refinance index and the purchase index dropped 8% and 4%, respectively, from the previous week.
The refinance share of mortgage activity declined to 75%, making this 10 consecutive weeks of straight declines and the lowest recorded level since May of 2012.
The adjustable-rate mortgage share of activity remained steady at 5% of total applications.
Additionally, the average 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage with a conforming loan balance rose to 3.82%. The average 30-year, FRM with a jumbo loan balance surged to 3.95% from 3.90%.
The average contract interest rate for the 30-year, FRM backed by the FHA remained at 3.53%.
Meanwhile, the 15-year, FRM increased to 3.02% from 3.01%, and the 5/1 ARM dropped to 2.59% from 2.62%.
Though hedge fund purchases on a national level have had minimal impact, in the nation’s hottest foreclosure markets hedge funds, or institutional investors, are contributing to double digit foreclosure price increases and dramatic declines in REO inventories.
A new analysis of 16 of the leading foreclosure markets by CoreLogic economist Sam Khater suggests that institutional investors are driving up prices in six hot foreclosure markets where institutional investors’ purchases increased last year.
“The media has focused attention on institutional investors using cash to invest in single-family residential properties to rent, but relative to the overall market, the scale of their purchases is still very small,” Khater said. He noted that Blackstone, reportedly the largest hedge fund investor, has committed to buy 125,000 properties in 2013. By contrast, small investors purchased sone 600,000 homes using first-lien financing last year.
However, hedge funds are increasing their investments and in a few selected markets their impact was very large last year.
Phoenix saw prices rise 37 percent over 2011, Las Vegas rose 30 percent and in the balance of the six markets foreclosure prices increased by double digit amounts.
“More importantly, the ripple effects are greatly impacting the broader market,” Khater wrote. “Lower end home prices in markets with rising shares of institutional investors are up 15 percent from a year ago, compared to only 6 percent for the remaining markets.”
Khater said the large volume declines of foreclosures in Las Vegas, Atlanta and Phoenix are to do hedge fund activity, where declines in California markers are primarily to do individual investors.
Khater said institutional investors are clearly concentrated in five states: Florida, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada and North Carolina. In Miami last year, hedge funds accounted for 30 percent of REO sales; 23 percent in Phoenix; 21 percent in Charlotte; 19 percent in Las Vegas; and 18 percent in Orlando.
Hedge funds were much less active in California and the Midwest. In the Midwest, REOs remained elevated compared to Florida and Southwestern markets.
“Minneapolis and Chicago are drawing less interest from both types of investors generally, relative to these other markets. Only Detroit is garnering interest from institutional investors,” Khater said.