The Mortgage Bankers Association reports that both refinancing and home purchase applications dropped 7.5% toward the end of March.
Rates have been slowly ascending which may be contributing to the drop. Michael Fratantoni, MBA VP/Research & Economics says, “As rates climb back to 5%, fewer homeowners have both the incentive and the ability to refinance."
30 year-fixed mortgages ran higher than in previous weeks at 4.92% and borrowing costs have surpassed the 4.21% mark in October.
Fratantoni seemed concerned since the market typically picks up in early spring. "Purchase volume remained roughly flat as we enter what is typically the peak home buying season."
Lennar Corporation CEO Stuart Miller is still waiting to see what will happen this spring. “The long-awaited selling season of 2011 has not yet defined itself as the beginning of a recovery cycle. We continue to believe that the housing recovery will take time and patience and will be inconsistent and uneven.” Lennar Corporation is one of the largest homebuilders in the U.S.
Although rates have inched up slightly, buyers are back to taking the “wait and see” approach as prices continue to drop. Many buyers may believe that home prices haven’t bottomed out and want to cash in on the lowest possible price.
Moody Analytic economist Celia Chen, says,“ If people are not sure when home prices should bottom, they’re going to be less likely to want to invest in a home. Weaker demand will weaken home prices, making it more difficult for those who are distressed to sell their homes.”
Mortgage Refinances Drop Slightly, But May Rebound in April
Mortgage refinances only saw around a 2.1% dip dropping from 66.4% to 64.3%. Although the mortgage refinance market has been impacted, homeowners continue to seek home mortgage refinance. In fact, the market may experience an upward trend as mortgage brokers offer special lower than market rates to attract more applicants.
For example, mortgage companies such as Bank of America just announced that beginning in April the 30-year fixed mortgage refinance rate will hover around 4.75%. The lender reminds homeowners that in order to be approved for it’s lower than market rate; homeowners should have a credit score of above 740 and a debt-to-income ratio lower than 40%.
Despite March App Drop, Mortgage Market Remains Optimistic
Although mortgage applications rates continue to rise and decline on a daily basis, economists contend that rates continue to remain low and consumers should lock in now.
Freddie Mac VP/Chief Economist Frank Nothaft explains, “Fixed mortgage rates rose slightly for a second week in a row, but continue to remain quite low. Low rates have benefited from relatively benign inflation reports.”
The housing market also continues to provide fertile ground for investors. Dropping home prices have made investment home purchases ripe as investors are snapping up two and even three homes. Laura Parsons, mortgage specialist at BMO in Calgary Alberta says that she sees several clients heading into some of the hardest hit market areas such as Miami, Tampa, Phoenix and Las Vegas and Las Vegas to purchase an investment property.
Investment advisors caution consumers to have patience with investment properties but that the payoff will come. Urdang Capital Markets portfolio manager Dean Frankel says, "If the economy keeps clicking along and jobs keep growing, housing will be fine.” He adds that the recovery could take up to three to five years.