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Homeowners are flocking to refinance ahead of costly new fee

Ethan Rotberg
·3 mins read
Homeowners are flocking to refinance ahead of costly new fee
Homeowners are flocking to refinance ahead of costly new fee

U.S. homeowners are in a new frenzy to refinance their homes — and take advantage of super-low mortgage rates while they still can.

A new report shows mortgage borrowing is increasing, even as rates rise from their record lows of recent weeks.

Experts say a new fee on refi loans is starting to push rates higher and is creating a sense of urgency among Americans who are interested in refinancing to cut their mortgage costs.

Mortgage applications jump, led by a refi surge

Happy loving couple having fun in kitchen, dancing together, celebrating relocation or anniversary, handsome young husband holding beautiful wife hand, moving to favorite music, enjoying date
fizkes / Shutterstock
Homeowners have been only too happy to refinance and save.

Mortgage applications rose 6.8% in the week ending Sept. 18, driven by a 9% increase in refi requests, the Mortgage Bankers Association, or MBA, reported on Wednesday. Refinances also increased to 64.3% of total mortgage applications, up from 62.8% the previous week.

Compared to a year ago, refinance applications are up a whopping 86% as homeowners continue to benefit from mortgage rates that cratered during the coronavirus crisis.

The mortgage data firm Black Knight recently calculated that 19.3 million mortgage holders were in a good position to refinance at a much lower rate — and save an average $299 a month.

You're considered a good refi candidate if you have a solid credit score and at least 20% home equity (that is, the share of your home's value that you've paid off).

Demand for purchase loans — to buy homes — increased by 3% from the previous week, the MBA says, and was up 25% from the same week one year ago.

"The strong interest in homebuying observed this summer has carried over to the fall,” says Joel Kan, the MBA's forecaster. Coronavirus lockdowns during the spring caused the peak homebuying season to stretch late into this year.

Mortgage activity was healthy last week, though 30-year and 15-year fixed mortgage rates increased to their highest levels since late August, Kan says.

The mortgage bankers say their survey shows rates on 30-year loans rose to an average 3.10% last week, from 3.07% a week earlier.

New refi fee casts a shadow

Money bag home and man hands in sunlight represent to exchange or saving money or investing to buy a home or loan to buy a house or real estate or investment for the future.
thitikan chuachan / Shutterstock
A new mortgage refinance fee is pushing rates higher.

Homeowners who've been waiting to refinance their mortgages may need to hurry to lock in the best rates.

A new 0.5% fee on refi loans technically goes into effect Dec. 1, but many lenders have already started to pass it along to borrowers in the form of higher mortgage rates.

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae — government-sponsored mortgage giants that buy most U.S. home loans from lenders — say COVID-19 has made the fee necessary, as the companies look to offset losses related to the pandemic.

But there's still time to get a great refinance rate, because it's not too difficult to find 30-year refi loans at under 3%, and even far below 3%.

To find the lowest rate you can get, get a minimum of five rate quotes and compare them. A Freddie Mac study found that a borrower who shops around to five lenders pays an average of about $3,000 less over time than someone with only one offer.

Make sure you request a rate lock when you submit your mortgage application — to protect yourself in case rates spike.

Then, keep your comparison shopping skills handy for when your homeowners insurance comes up for renewal — so you can make sure you've got the right coverage at the lowest possible rate.