As Mortgage Applications Fall, Lower Loan Limits Loom | Cross River Real Estate

Rising rates continue to have an impact on home purchase applications. The number of mortgage applications filed last by 13.5% from the prior week on a seasonally adjusted basis as interest rates increased, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday.

The purchase component eased 2.7% this week relative to last and has fallen 16.8% since the first week in May on a seasonally adjusted basis. Rates reversed course last week and turned upward after easing in the prior week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.57% last week according to Freddie Mac.

On an unadjusted basis, MBA reported the market composite index declined 23%. The refinance index slipped 28% from a week earlier, while the seasonally adjusted purchase index slid 2.7%.

The sudden drop in purchase applications comes as loans for new homes have taken market share away from refinancing since January, raising its market share from 27% to 53% in July.

While the average rate has been on the rise, the National Association of Realtors reported that the Federal Housing Finance Agency is considering reducing the limits on mortgages that can be backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Currently, the GSEs can support loans up to $417,000 in most markets and up to $625,500 in higher cost markets, while loans above this are supported by the private “jumbo” market made up of banks and private MBS securitizers.

Rates on jumbo loans have eased to party or slightly better than conforming loans in recent months as banks have started taking more loans into portfolio to compensate for weak commercial and refinance business. However, these loans are very high quality with large down payments and high FICO scores. The concern then is that if the loan limits decline, the private sector may still not be ready to pick up the non-pristine lending activity in the high cost portion of the market, cutting off access to credit for this portion of the market, resulting in reduced demand and sales.

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