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75% of Mortgage Refinances Get Approved, and These States Have the Highest (and Lowest) Approval Rates

A LendingTree study analyzes mortgage refinance approvals by state, comparing those rates to home-price appreciation and average credit scores

Mortgage interest rates have fallen more than 1 percentage point since November 2018 when they reached a seven-year high. The most recent average rate of 3.75% is lower than 77% of rates that have been available in the market over the last decade. And this means many mortgage borrowers could save on the monthly payments and, potentially, on lifetime interest by refinancing their mortgage.

In this analysis, LendingTree delved into data from more than 10 million mortgage applications using the most recent available Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data for 2018 to find out how approval rates differ across the country. Our analysis reveals what states had the highest and lowest refi approval rates, based on two key variables.

Borrowers don’t always take advantage of refinancing despite the obvious financial benefit. For example, a borrower who took out a $300,000 loan in November 2018 at 4.75% could save about $200 per month on their payment and over $50,000 in lifetime interest by refinancing at 3.75% now. Some borrowers might be concerned about their chances of getting a refi approval, but recently released government data show that most applications are successful.

“The availability of a lower interest rate is only one of the conditions needed to refinance a mortgage,” said Tendayi Kapfidze, LendingTree’s chief economist who led the study. “Borrowers often need to have some equity in their home, especially if they want to take cash out, and a solid credit score.

“Fortunately, increases in home prices since 2012, combined with paying down their loan balances, means many borrowers have built considerable equity in their homes.”

After paying a mortgage consistently on time, borrowers can reap additional savings when they refinance, Kapfidze added.

”Higher credit scores mean borrowers get lower and better interest rate offers.”

Key findings:

  • About 75% of mortgage refinance applications are approved nationally. Although this is lower than the approval rate for purchase mortgages at more than 90%, refi applications are relatively easier to submit, especially on the many emerging digital platforms.
  • Home-value appreciation and credit scores matter. When we compare states, we find that these factors correlate to the approval rate difference at 0.50 for home-value appreciation (from 2012 through 2018, when home prices bottomed) and 0.64 for average consumer credit scores. 
  • Utah leads the way. An approval rate of 82.4% makes Utah No. 1. This is consistent with (and somewhat outperforms) the state’s No. 8 spot in home-price appreciation and rank at No. 19 in average consumer credit scores. 
  • Credit scores boost the Dakotas. Respectively coming in second and third in both approval rates and consumer credit scores, North Dakota and South Dakota are the only other states with refi application approval above 80%. North Dakota also ranks No. 1 in home-value appreciation.  
  • New Mexico has the lowest rate of refi approvals. The state rates at just 66.5% in refinance approvals. It also ranks poorly in both home-value appreciation at No. 44 and average consumer credit score at No. 41. However this approval rate means there’s still a lot of opportunity for borrowers to benefit. 
  • Florida underperforms. Despite ranking No. 13 on home-value appreciation Florida has the second worst approval rate at 68.2%. Though the Sunshine State ranks at the No. 37 spot for average consumer credit score, the state is underperforming in refi approvals.

 

 

Methodology: LendingTree analyzed more than 10 million mortgage application records from the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council’s Home Mortgage Disclosure Act 2018 data set, the most recent available. The data represents mortgage applications from more than 5,000 financial institutions.

 

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