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Refinance Applications Triple in the U.S. Here’s Where Refis are Growing Fastest

The economic effects of the COVID-19 coronavirus have led to unprecedented volatility in mortgage interest rates. As concerns about the deadly disease began impacting financial markets in mid-January, mortgage rates dropped sharply as U.S. Treasury rates, which mortgage rates tend to track, fell to record lows.

Since then, a stampede of refinance applications has overwhelmed mortgage originators. This led to a rebound in the 30-year national average mortgage rate from its record low of 3.29% in the week ending March 5, which took some of the momentum out of the refinance market. Still, LendingTree data reveals that refinance mortgage applications tripled from a year ago in each of the 50 largest cities and in all but five states.

“A mortgage refinance, particularly at these historically low rates, presents an attractive opportunity for homeowners,” said Tendayi Kapfidze, LendingTree’s chief economist. “Compared to a year ago when rates were 1 percentage point higher, consumers save nearly $60 per month — or $700 per year in payments — for every $100,000 borrowed. Interest savings add up to about $20,000 over the 30-year term of a typical mortgage.”

States and cities with higher average credit scores and greater home-price appreciation are better positioned to take advantage of the historic refinance opportunity. The improvement in the balance sheets of those households could help those areas recover more robustly when the economic crisis induced by the coronavirus ends.

Key findings:

  • San Francisco and Raleigh, N.C., lead cities with the most growth in refi applications, which increased 417% and 406%, respectively.
  • There are four California cities in the top 10. San Jose, San Diego and Los Angeles saw refinance applications grow 394%, 360% and 345%, respectively, from last year.  
  • Buffalo, N.Y., Louisville, Ky. and Memphis, Tenn. lag behind the rest of the nation’s metros in refinances. Borrowers in these three cities are taking the least advantage of this historic refinance opportunity, though they still show growth rates above 200%. 
  • Nebraska had the fastest growth of all states. Applications were up 338%, leading the nine states with growth rates above 300%.
  • Five states underperform notably. With growth rates below 200%, borrowers in West Virginia, Mississippi, Kentucky, Arkansas and Alabama are missing out on an opportunity to significantly lower their mortgage payments. 
  • Home-value appreciation and credit scores matter. When LendingTree compared states, it found correlations to refi-application growth of 0.37 for home-value appreciation growth over five years, and 0.57 for average homeowner credit scores.

 

Methodology

LendingTree compared consumer mortgage refinance applications in early 2020 to a comparable period in 2019. Applications were submitted on the LendingTree mortgage shopping platform, which includes more than 500 mortgage lenders across the country.

 

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