Home buyers flee the housing market as mortgage rates surge to the highest level since 2000

The numbers: Mortgage rates rose for the fourth week in a row to the highest level since 2000, as the economy continues to show strength.

Rates surged as the U.S. economy continued to show signs of resilience,  which signal to the market that the U.S. Federal Reserve may not be done with rate increases.

The 30-year was averaging at 7.31%, which in part dampened demand for home-purchase mortgages to the lowest level since April 1995. 

Demand for both purchases and refinancing fell. That overall pushed down the market composite index, a measure of mortgage application volume, the Mortgage Bankers Association (M.B.A.) said on Wednesday. 

The market index fell 4.2% to 184.8 for the week that ended Aug. 18, relative to a week earlier. A year ago, the index stood at 270.1.

Key details: High mortgage rates are weighing on home buyers’ budgets due to an increase in borrowing costs. Many buyers fled the market as a result of rates rising over the last week. The purchase index, which measures mortgage applications for the purchase of a home, fell 5% from last week.

Rates hold little allure for homeowners hoping to refinance. The refinance index fell 2.8%.

Rates rose across the board.

The average contract rate for the 30-year mortgage for homes sold for $726,200 or less was 7.31% for the week ending August 18. That’s up from 7.16% the week before, the M.B.A. said. The 30-year is at the highest level since December 2000.

The rate for jumbo loans, or the 30-year mortgage for homes sold for over $726,200, was 7.27%, up from 7.11% the previous week.

The average rate for a 30-year mortgage backed by the Federal Housing Administration rose to 7.09% from 6.93%.

The 15-year rose to 6.72%, up from last week’s 6.57%. 

The rate for adjustable-rate mortgages rose to 6.5% from last week’s 6.2%. The share of adjustable-rate mortgages rose to 7.6%, the highest level in five months.

The big picture: The housing market continues to be hammered by good economic news, which is pushing rates up and depressing home sales. Higher rates also discourage homeowners from selling, as their purchasing power erodes when they look for homes to buy. 

As a result, both home-buying demand and supply of home listings continues to fall, bringing the market to a standstill. Until the economy shows signs of slowing, it’s likely that the housing market will remain in the doldrums.

What the M.B.A. said:  “Applications for home purchase mortgages dropped to their lowest level since April 1995, as home buyers withdrew from the market due to the elevated rate environment and the erosion of purchasing power,” Joel Kan, deputy chief economist and vice president at the M.B.A., said in a statement.

Kan added that there was an uptick in people using adjustable-rate mortgages. “Some home buyers are looking to lower their monthly payments by accepting some interest rate risk after the initial fixed period,” he said.

Market reaction: The yield on the 10-year Treasury note
was above 4.3% in early morning trading Wednesday.

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