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Low Mortgage Rates Increase Refinance Activity

Extremely low refinance rates are fueling refinance demand as homeowners take advantage of rates that are better than expected. In Freddie Mac's First Quarter of 2015 Refinance Report, refinance loans accounted for 63 percent of all single family home loan originations.

Mortgage rates are still low, historically speaking, though rates increased this past week. Today's mortgage rates on 30 year loans are averaging 3.87 percent, up from the prior week's average 30 year rate of 3.78 percent. Despite the increase, 30 year mortgage rates are still only 0.50 percent higher than the all-time record low of 3.35 percent set in May 2013.

Higher home prices the past several years has increased cash-out refinances. Approximately 27 percent of borrowers increased their loan amount when refinancing. Borrowers either cashed out some equity or consolidated loans when refinancing.

During the height of the housing bubble when the home was treated as a piggy bank, 89 percent of borrowers increased their loan amount when refinancing. Even if home prices continue to rise, the percentage of borrowers doing a cash-out refinancing will never be that high again as a result of more stringent loan requirements.

34 percent of borrowers who refinanced in the first quarter refinanced to a shorter loan term. Refinancing to a 15 year loan from a 30 year loan can save tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars with a shorter term loan.

34 percent shortened loan term when refinancing

Mortgage rates today on 15 year conforming loans are averaging 3.01 percent, 86 basis points lower than conforming 30 year rates. If you can afford the higher monthly mortgage payments that come with a shorter term loan, you should seriously consider it for the savings. Unfortunately, many people assume they can't afford the higher monthly payments without actually looking into the numbers to see if it is feasible or worth some belt-tightening adjustments.

The average mortgage interest rate reduction on refinances in the first quarter was 1.2 percent. That translates into an annual savings of about $5,000 in mortgage interest on a $400,000 home loan.

An overwhelming majority of borrowers chose a fixed-rate mortgage when refinancing. More than 95 percent of borrowers choose a fixed-rate mortgage regardless of what their original loan had been. 76 percent of borrowers who had an adjustable loan refinanced into a fixed-rate loan.

Freddie Mac estimates that borrowers who refinanced in the first quarter of 2015 will collectively saved more than $1.4 billion in interest payments over the first year of their new loan.

By the end of 2015, 30 year refinance rates will likely be between 4.50 percent and 5.00 percent. Rates will also continue to increase in 2016 and beyond. If you're considering refinancing your loan, now is the time to do so. Likewise if you're thinking financing the purchase of a home, you should do so before rates move higher.

Not only are mortgage rates moving higher in the coming years, home prices will also continue to rise. The increase in home prices has accelerated recently because of the shortage of homes available for sale. reported home prices are going up faster than they were just a few months ago.

With rates and home prices continuing to increase, now is the time to look closely into your refinancing and purchasing options.
Author: Brian McKay
May 2nd, 2015