A report from the Mortgage Bankers Association on Wednesday showed applications for loans to buy a home decreased more than 6 percent last week from a week earlier.
The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, decreased 6.6 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier, the MBA announced.
The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to its lowest level since July 2017, 44.4 percent of total applications, from 46.5 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity increased to 6.4 percent of total applications.
The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($453,100 or less) increased to its highest level since January 2014, 4.64 percent, from 4.57 percent.
The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to its highest level since April 2011, 4.02 percent, from 4.00 percent.
"The drumbeat continues. Inflation is increasing, as are deficits, and the economy and job market continue to look strong, and rates are higher as a result," Mike Fratantoni, chief economist for the MBA, told CNBC. "This upward move in rates is coming right at the start of the spring buying season and is a headwind."
Prospective buyers who drag their feet will only end up paying much more, experts Warn.
"This means that just by waiting about six weeks to buy a home, someone buying the typical U.S. home would be paying an extra $564 per year on their mortgage. Over the lifespan of a 30-year mortgage, that adds up to nearly $17,000," said Aaron Terrazas, senior economist at Zillow. "In more expensive markets, the increase is even higher."
Meanwhile, there are also worries that caps on the deduction for mortgage interest following a recent overhaul of the tax code could hurt demand for houses, Reuters explained.
Housing supply could improve in the coming months as data last week showed the number of homes under construction surged to near a 10-1/2-year high in January. Single-family home completions were the highest since June 2008.
First-time buyers accounted for 29 percent of transactions in January, down from 32 percent in December and 33 percent a year ago. Economists and realtors say a 40 percent share of first-time buyers is needed for a robust housing market.
In January, houses typically stayed on the market for 42 days, up from 40 days in December and down from 50 days a year ago. Forty-three percent of homes sold in January were on the market for less than a month.
(Newsmax wire services contributed to this report).
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