Housing Market Breaks Losing Streak, But Interest Rates Jump

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After declining for five consecutive weeks, applications for home loans finally managed to post a gain. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s latest report, for the week ended December 6, loan applications edged 1 percent higher on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. It was only the eighth gain in 30 weeks.

The figure includes both refinancing and home purchase demand and covers more than 75 percent of all domestic retail residential mortgage applications. The seasonally adjusted purchase index also increased 1 percent from the prior week, but remains 3 percent lower than the week prior to Thanksgiving.

The industry group’s refinance index climbed 2 percent higher from the previous week and was 16 percent lower than the week prior to Thanksgiving. Overall, the refinance share of mortgage activity accounted for 65 percent of total applications compared to 63 percent from a week earlier. However, with interest rates on the rise, refinance activity is not expected to pick up significant momentum anytime soon.

Amid talks of the Federal Reserve dialing down its bond-purchasing program, the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage increased from 4.51 percent to 4.61 percent, the highest rate since September. The most recent average rate for a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage came in at 3.66 percent, up from 3.56. Looking ahead, Zillow expects mortgage rates to exceed 5 percent for the first time since early 2010 next year.

Even though interest rates are low on a historic basis, affordability is near its worst level in about five years due to surging home prices. Earlier this month, CoreLogic reported that home prices were up 12.5 percent in October on a year-over-year basis, logging their 20th consecutive month of gains. In fact, prices have posted double-digit gains for nine straight months.

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