Mortgage Applications Actually Falling

Housing Wire has some useful information on mortgage applications this morning.

The headline number from the Mortgage Bankers Association is that mortgage applications were up 11.3% for the week ending March 6. HousingWire presents a different picture.

Household applications actually fell, according to Mortgage Maxx LCC, which tracks weekly mortgage applications as well for its proprietary prepayment projections. The MAX index published by the New York-based company fell 5.1 percent last week — so while overall applications appear to have increased, the number of households applying for a mortgage dropped. This suggests that households, either in distress or not, are having a tough time qualifying for a mortgage and are having to shop to get a loan.

Anecdotally, we know this is taking place. We know that underwriting criteria are tougher, and that borrowers are having a tough time qualifying for a loan. That distress appears to be even comparatively sharper in California, where a MAX sub-index tracking California application activity found a 8.2 percent drop in household applications last week.

The MBA data simply reflects the fact that individuals are applying for mortgages at multiple lenders. It contains a lot of double counting.

We’re still pretty deep in the woods.

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