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Economy in Brief

U.S. Mortgage Applications Edge Up from Refinancing
by Sandy Batten  December 23, 2020

• Mortgage applications rose only marginally.

• Decline in purchase applications offset by increase in refinancing.

• Mortgage interest rates mostly lower.

The Mortgage Bankers Association Mortgage Loan Applications Index edged up 0.8% w/w (+80.5% y/y) in the week ended December 18, on top of a 1.1% weekly gain in the previous week. A 3.8% w/w rise in refinancing applications more than offset a 4.6% w/w decline in applications for purchase.

The effective interest rate on a 30-year mortgage was unchanged at a record low 2.95% while the 15-year rate dropped six basis points to a new survey low of 2.50%. These surveys began in January 1990. The effective rate for a Jumbo mortgage fell three basis points to 3.19%, regaining its record low first reached in the week of November 13. The rate on a five-year ARM jumped up 18 basis points to 2.89%.

The average mortgage loan size increased to $327,100 from $320,600 in the previous week. The average size of a purchase loan rose to $376,800, a new record high, from $374,700. The average size of a refinanced loan increased to $310,400 from $300,300.

Applications for fixed-rate loans increased 0.7% w/w (+84.6% y/y) and applications for adjustable-rate mortgages jumped 6.7% w/w (-16.4% y/y).

This survey covers over 75% of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications and has been conducted weekly since 1990. Respondents include mortgage bankers, commercial banks and thrifts. The base period and value for all indexes is March 16, 1990=100. The figures for weekly mortgage applications and interest rates are available in Haver's SURVEYW database.

MBA Mortgage Applications (%, SA) 12/18/20 12/11/20 12/04/20 Y/Y 2019 2018 2017
Total Market Index 0.8 1.1 -1.2 80.5 32.4 -10.4 -17.8
  Purchase -4.6 1.8 -5.0 26.5 6.6 2.1 5.6
  Refinancing 3.8 1.4 1.8 124.3 71.1 -24.3 -34.0
30-Year Effective Mortgage Interest Rate (%) 2.95 2.95 3.00 4.07

(Dec '19)

4.34 4.94 4.32
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