Mortgage Applications Tepid Despite Rates

Mortgage applications edge up just 0.6% as record-low home loan rates fail to spark demand in the housing market.
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WASHINGTON (

TheStreet

) -- Mortgage applications edged up 0.6% last week as record-low home loan rates failed to spark demand in the housing market.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said early Wednesday that mortgage applications for home purchases ticked up just 0.3% while those to refinance home loans rose 0.6%. Refi applications accounted for 78% of all mortgage applications last week.

VOTE: Do We Need Another Homebuyer Tax Credit?

Would a new round of credits help or hurt the housing market?

Consumers did not take advantage of record-low 30-year fixed loan rates of 4.57% last week, down from 4.6% in the prior week and 5.38% a year earlier. Last week's rate was the lowest on record since the MBA began tracking the data two decades ago. The week's average 15-year rate of 3.95% also fell to record lows, from 4.03%.

The still-struggling housing market saw sales ramp up this spring as consumers rushed to take advantage of federal tax credits that offered as much as $8,000 for first-time homebuyers and $6,500 for repeat buyers moving into new primary residences. Following the expiration of those credits on April 30, the market saw a dramatic decline in demand for the month of May that spilled over into June. Lawmakers later extended the deadline to close on a home purchase and still qualify for the tax credit to Sept. 30.

>>4 Top Homebuilder Stocks: Life After the Tax Credit

In a separate report, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday the median sales price for previously occupied homes rose in 100 of the 155 metro areas it tracks in the second quarter. The national median price was $176,900, up from $174,200 in the year-earlier period and from $166,400 in the first quarter.

Even so, most industry sector analysts agree that home prices will continue to slide in the range of 5% to 10% before picking back up again, though bears will argue the drop will be closer to 25%.

The biggest gains were in Akron, Ohio where prices rose by 36%, followed by San Francisco and San Jose, where prices rose 25%. Home prices in Cumberland, Md., Tucson, Ariz., Ocala, Fla. and Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas fell by double-digit percentages.

Homebuilder stocks were mostly in the red Wednesday as the Dow Jones industrial average tumbled more than 200 points on the back of the Federal Reserve's cautionary remarks about the economy. Halfway through the day's session shares of

NVR

(NVR) - Get Report

fell 1.3%,

D.R. Horton

(DHI) - Get Report

2.6%,

PulteGroup

(PHM) - Get Report

3.6% and

Toll Brothers

(TOL) - Get Report

3.8%. The

SPDR S&P Homebuilders

(XHB) - Get Report

, an exchange-traded fund that tracks the homebuilder sector, was off by 2.8%.

-- Reported by Miriam Marcus Reimer from New York.

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