Drop In Rates Spurs Mortgage Refinances

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Mortgage Applications
Al Behrman/AP
By Diana Olick | @diana_olick

Mortgage applications edged slightly higher last week, as rates fell to their lowest level since November.

Applications rose 3.6 percent on week. However, the move was entirely due to a 7 percent gain in refinances, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Meanwhile, applications to purchase a home fell less than one percent on week but dropped 12 percent on year.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) decreased to 4.39 percent from 4.43 percent. Concerns over whether or not the European Central Bank might undertake easing measures at its June policy meeting spooked equity markets last week. Lackluster retail sales this week didn't help matters. As investors flee to the relative security of the bond market, yields fall, and interest rates loosely follow those moves.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%"We always get some response to any move to periodic highs/lows in rates. Some magic percentage of mortgage holders are always needing or wanting to refinance, and some percentage of that percentage is flexible as to their lock time frame," said Matthew Graham, chief operating officer of Mortgage News Daily. "Those are the folks that make the applications numbers move the most. In general, they're locking more as rates are hitting periodic lows."

Refinances, which had comprised around 80 percent of the market when rates hit rock bottom a little over year ago, are now just 50 percent of all loan applications; their volume is down more than 70 percent from a year ago. Purchase applications were expected to pick up some of the slack this spring, but demand hasn't proved as robust as some had hoped.

Drop In Rates Spurs Mortgage Refinances

Year-over-year gain: 21.5%

Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $224,450

Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $272,750

Residents enjoy hundreds of nearby hiking trails, as well as indoor culture at the Fine Arts Center and the Colorado Springs Philharmonic.

Year-over-year gain: 22%

Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $318,375

Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $388,500

This neighborhood, bounded by the Schuylkill River and 20th Street, and by South Street and Christian Street, was viewed as a slum in the 1970s, when Philadelphia's Redevelopment Authority took over abandoned properties.

Year-over-year gain: 24.2%

Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $516,450

Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $641,500

Magnolia covers 4 square miles, making it the second-largest Seattle neighborhood by area. It features a lighthouse built in 1881 and is home to Seattle's largest park, at 534 acres.

Year-over-year gain: 32.1%

Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $210,446

Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $277,898

Paradise Valley, in the heart of the Scottsdale-Phoenix area, gets an average 294 days of sunshine a year -- hence, the more than 200 golf courses.

Year-over-year gain: 32.2%

Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $344,750

Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $455,835

The Washington Post listed Sunset Hills among "the shortest commute" category of Virginia neighborhoods, with an average commute time of just over 21 minutes. And Dulles International Airport is about six miles away.

Year-over-year gain: 44.5%

Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $247,735

Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $357,900

This once-seedy area has become hot in recent years. It's packed with art galleries and chic retail shops, as well as new upscale bars and restaurants next to venerable family-owned cafeterias.

Year-over-year gain: 46.9%

Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $284,750

Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $418,250

Brighton, once the center of New England's cattle trade, is in the northwest corner of Boston, on the Charles River. The Brighton Branch Library is Boston's first renovated LEED Green Building. The Brighton Police station is shown here.

Year-over-year gain: 47.5%

Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $223,175

Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $329,100

South Loop joins a number of other once-blighted neighborhoods on this list that have been redeveloped and are now hot. The site of former rail yards, it was known for many years more for its vices (as in brothels, burlesques) than its residential virtues.

Year-over-year gain: 48.7%

Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $241,000

Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $358,450

Also: Fairgrounds, San Jose (41.4%); La Jolla, San Diego (40%); Woodland Hills, Los Angeles (37.5%); Southwest Anaheim, Anaheim (35.2%); Berryessa, San Jose (34.4%).

Newhall, the southernmost and oldest district of Santa Clarita, was the first permanent Anglo settlement in the valley. Ranches-turned-film studios dot the area, including the Melody Ranch, which was once owned by Gene Autry. The ranch hosts the annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival.

Year-over-year gain: 48.8%

Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $504,250

Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $750,275

This is the most affluent neighborhood in Charlotte; the median income is $79,737, according to Zillow. That compares with a median of $46,975 for Charlotte. A high point of the area is the Duke Mansion, built in 1915 by tobacco magnate James Buchanan Duke.

Year-over-year gain: 57.4%

Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $167,450

Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $263,615

People who live here, according to classifications Zillow uses to characterize residents, are likely to be: Corporate Climbers, Multi-lingual Urbanites or in a category called "Bright Lights, Big City," which Zillow uses to describe "singles ranging in age from the early 20s to mid-40s who have moved to an urban setting."

Year-over-year gain: 97.3%

Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $668,250

Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $1,318,301

New York City’s 92-acre planned community includes areas built on more than 3 million cubic yards of soil and rock, some of which was excavated during the construction of the World Trade Center.

Bloomberg ranked neighborhoods in U.S. cities based on the year-over-year increase in median home sale prices from January 2013 to January 2014. Percentage increases were based on Zillow calculations of median sale prices of all home types and calculated only for neighborhoods with at least 10 sales per month. Only neighborhoods with median home sale prices of at least $250,000 in January 2014 were included. Data were rounded.

Related real estate rankings:

Most Expensive Home Prices: U.S. Neighborhoods

Priced Out: Where Higher Rates Could Hurt Homebuyers The Most

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