Real Estate

The number of residential mortgages originated in the fourth quarter tumbled to a nine-year low as inflation drove home-loan rates above 7%, according to a report on Thursday from ATTOM.

Americans signed 1.5 million mortgages in the closing three months of 2022, including purchase loans and refinancings, down 55% from a year earlier, as interest rates more than doubled, the real estate data firm said. Refinancings dropped to the lowest level in more than 20 years, the report said.

“The lending industry experienced a triple-dose of hits in the fourth quarter of last year as mortgage rates kept rising to levels not seen in more than 15 years and the U.S. housing market continued to stall after a decade of prosperity,” said Rob Barber, ATTOM’s CEO.

Interest rates soared in the fourth quarter after inflation sparked by the global pandemic reached the hottest pace since the 1980s, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The average U.S. rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage reached a 20-year high of 7.08% at the end of October and again in mid-November, compared with 2.98% a year earlier, according to Freddie Mac. The rate last week was 6.5%, the mortgage securitizer said.

“Rates have settled back down a bit so far this year, going back and forth in small amounts,” said Barber. “That could lure some potential home buyers back into the market.”

The annual average U.S. rate for a 30-year fixed home loan probably will fall to 5.3% this year from 6.6% in 2022, the Mortgage Bankers Association said in a Feb. 21 forecast. Inflation likely will slow to 3.2% from last year’s four-decade high of 7.1%, the trade group said.

Mortgage originations measured in dollar volume fell to $2.25 trillion last year, as measured by MBA, half the level seen in 2021 when rates dipped below 3%. This year, mortgage lending likely will decline to $1.87 trillion, the lowest level since 2018’s $1.68 trillion, before climbing to $2.28 trillion in 2024, MBA said.

“While we expect that 2023 will be a tough year for the broader economy as well as the housing and mortgage markets, it should ultimately bring lower mortgage rates and a return of housing demand,” MBA economists said in a statement.

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