Rate-and-term refi locks jump 25.6% in May: Optimal Blue


Rate-and-term refinances rose 25.6% in May as mortgage rates trended down, according to a new report by Optimal Blue. The spike was a response to a modest drop in the 30-year conforming mortgage rate, which dropped to 6.8% on May 15 but ultimately ended the month at 7.02% on the Optimal Blue Mortgage Market Indices (OBMMI).

“The sharp increase in demand for rate-and-term refinances following a dip in rates indicates that homeowners with rates above 7% feel pinched and are sensitive to even modest interest rate movements in the current economic landscape,” Brennan O’Connell, director of data solutions at Optimal Blue, said in a prepared statement. “For context, since Optimal Blue began tracking the 30-year conforming rate as a market index in January 2017, interest rates only exceeded 7.02% on 120 market days. Based on other measures, buyers who locked loans on those days have the highest mortgage rates of the past two decades.”

Chart courtesy of Optimal Blue

Total volume rose by 5.3% in May month over month and 1.8% year over year. Such gains were driven by a 4.1% increase in month-over-month purchase lock volume, a 7.2% rise in cash-out refinances, and the big rise in rate-and-term refinances. There was, however, a year-over-year decline in purchase lock counts, a “key market health indicator that controls for home price appreciation and refinance volatility, were down 4% year-over-year.”

Despite the 25.6% monthly increase from April, rate-term refinances remained at a value of 6 on the market volume index (total volume indexed to 100 in January 2018). Cash-out refinances were 9 and purchase mortgages registered at 94.

Conforming loans were 57.2% of the pie, with FHA at 18.4%, VA at 10.8% and nonconforming loans at 13.0%, according to Optimal Blue data.

The purchase pull-through rate was 79.9% in May, down 184 bps from April. The refinance pull-through rate was 59.4% in May, down 115 basis points from April and 295 bps from February. In May 2023, the refi pull-through rate was about 65%.

Nationally, markets in the Northeast showed the largest increase in lock volume, according to Optimal Blue. The Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH metro had a 17.8% increase in rate locks and the New York-Newark-Jersey City metro wasn’t far behind at 16.4%.

The Washington, D.C., Dallas, Denver, Miami and Phoenix metros all showed declines in lock volume in May.

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Chart courtesy of Optimal Blue

The average loan amount in May remained flat at $374,500 and the average home purchase price rose for the fifth consecutive month to $480,300 from $477,900.



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