Refinances Seen Falling to 38 Percent Market Share in 2014

Feb 4 2014, 1:16PM

Homeowners who refinanced through Freddie Mac in 2013 continued to display fiscal restraint, choosing fixed rate mortgages, keeping essentially the same mortgage balance, and in many cases opting for shorter-term loans to build equity more rapidly.  In doing so homebuyers who refinanced during the year will save approximately $21 billion on net over the first 12 months of their new loans.

The results of Freddie Mac’s fourth quarter refinance analysis showed borrowers are continuing to take advantage of low rates, with the refinancing shaving an average of about 1.5 percentage points off of their old rate; or an average reduction of 25 percent.  On a $200,000 loan this translates into $3,000 in interest over 12 months.  Homeowners who refinanced through the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) benefited from an average rate reduction of 1.7 percentage points and will save an average of $3,300 in interest during the first 12 months.

Thirty-nine percent of those who refinanced during the fourth quarter of 2013 shortened the term of their loan compared to 37 percent in the third quarter.  This was the highest percentage since 1992.  Homeowners who refinanced through HARP continued to take advantage of incentives offered by the program to shorten loan terms with 42 percent choosing to do so compared to 35 percent of those financing outside of HARP.  Only 5 percent of borrowers picked longer loan terms for their new loans.

Only $6.5 billion in net home equity was cashed out through refinancing in the fourth quarter compared to $7.1 billion in the third quarter.  . The peak in cash-out refinance volume was $84 billion during the second quarter of 2006. Another $6.1 billion was used to consolidate home equity loan balances into the first mortgage at the closing table.  About 83 percent of those who refinanced their first-lien home mortgage maintained about the same loan amount or lowered their principal balance by paying in additional money at the closing table. That’s just shy of the 88 percent peak during the second quarter of 2012.

During the entire year the total cash-out from refinancing was $32.1 billion compared to $320.5 billion during the 2006 peak.  Adjusted for inflation, annual cash-out volumes during 2010 through 2013 have been the smallest since 1997.

More than 95 percent of refinancing borrowers chose a fixed-rate loan. Fixed-rate loans were preferred regardless of what the original loan product had been. For example, 94 percent of borrowers who had a hybrid ARM refinanced into a fixed-rate loan during the fourth quarter. In contrast, only 3 percent of borrowers who had a fixed-rate loan chose an ARM.

The median age of a mortgage that was refinanced during the quarter increased to 7.0 years, the oldest median since Freddie Mac began its analysis.  The company said this reflected the duration of prevailing low interest rates; that is few homeowners who took out their mortgages within the last four year have much incentive to refinance.

Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist said, “Our latest refinance report shows the refinance boom continued to wind down as the pool of potential borrowers declined and as mortgage rates increased during the second half of 2013. We are projecting the refinance share will be just 38 percent of all originations in 2014 as refinance falls off further and the emerging purchase market consumes a bigger piece of the pie.”

Freddie Mac’s refinance analysis is based on a sample of properties on which Freddie Mac has funded two successive conventional, first-mortgage loans with the latest being for refinance rather than for purchase. During the fourth quarter of 2014, the refinance share of applications averaged 56 percent in Freddie Mac’s monthly refinance survey, and the ARM share of applications was 10 percent in Freddie Mac’s monthly ARM survey, which includes purchase-money as well as refinance applications.

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