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Borrowers Gobble Up Fewer Mortgages at Thanksgiving

Doug Whiteman
Borrowers Gobble Up Fewer Mortgages at Thanksgiving

As Americans loaded up on turkey and Black Friday deals during Thanksgiving week, they took smaller helpings of mortgages.

Borrowing was down last week, led by a big dip in refinancing, a trade group says. That was despite very attractive mortgage rates that remain near three-year lows.

Now that Thanksgiving is past, more homeowners may realize they still have a big reason to be grateful: You might save money by refinancing even if you took out your existing mortgage just last year.

Mortgage applications fall, led by refis

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Mortgage applications overall dropped 9.2% last week, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported Wednesday.

Applications for refinance loans plummeted 16% from a week earlier but were up 61% versus a year ago. Other recent weeks have featured much bigger year-over-year comparisons, but Thanksgiving distorted the picture last week, because it was on the calendar almost a week later than in 2018.

Refinances accounted for 59% of all mortgage applications last week, down from 62% a week earlier.

The amount of mortgage purchase applications — for loans to buy homes — edged up 1% last week compared to the previous week but were 24% lower versus last year at the same time.

Use this calculator to see how a refinance could cut your mortgage payment.

The impact from mortgage rates

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Homebuyers are still borrowing at a "healthy" clip, says says Joel Kan, associate vice president of forecasting for the Mortgage Bankers Association.

"The seasonally adjusted purchase index was at its highest level since July, as a combination of wage gains, slower home-price appreciation, and slightly easing inventory conditions continue to support increased activity," he says.

Meanwhile, refinance activity cooled even as interest rates stayed low.

"U.S. Treasury rates stayed flat last week, as uncertainty surrounding the U.K. elections offset positive domestic news on consumer spending," Kan says.

Mortgage rates ticked up last week, according to the closely followed survey from mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

The average for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage inched to 3.68%, from 3.66%, Freddie Mac says. Rates on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, which are a popular refinancing option, were unchanged at 3.15%.

The outlook for mortgages

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Freddie Mac will be out with fresh numbers on Thursday. The company has forecast that the benchmark 30-year mortgage rate will stay around 3.7% through the end of the year and will rise just slightly in 2020, to an average 3.8%.

Federal Reserve policymakers have one more meeting scheduled before the end of 2019, but they're widely expected to leave interest rates alone, after cutting them by a quarter point at each of the last three meetings.

Though mortgage rates have drifted a little higher in recent weeks, they remain considerably lower than they were last year at this time.

On average, you can get a 30-year mortgage more than one full percentage point below the rates offered in late 2018, and Freddie Mac has said refinancers this year have been saving about $1,700 a year in interest costs.

Check out today's best mortgage rates where you live.