Local credit unions are reporting an uptick in mortgage applications, as record-low interest rates entice members to refinance their mortgages or purchase a home, despite rising fears of a double-dip recession.
“We’re seeing a 50 percent increase in mortgage applications and loans going into our pipeline,”said Bill White, vice president of real estate lending at NASA Federal Credit Union in Upper Marlboro.
About 70 percent of the mortgage applications NASA FCU received in the first three weeks of August are for refinancings, though White has seen a gradual increase in new purchase submissions as well.
Applications for new homes are also on the rise at OAS Staff Federal Credit Union in the District, said Carlos Calderon, president and chief executive. Nearly three quarters of the mortgage applications submitted to the credit union are for new homes.
Pending home sales in the Washington area were up 29.3 percent year over year in July, according to Real Estate Business Intelligence.
Before the latest dip in rates, OAS Staff grew its total mortgage portfolio by 25 percent. Calderon expects the portfolio to further expand in light of the influx of applications since the beginning of August.
Freddie Mac pegged the average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage at 4.22 percent last week. Rates have hovered in the 4 percent range for past month, resulting in a 22 percent rise in applications in the first week of August, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. That level of interest has since abated as nationwide submissions dropped 2.4 percent for the week ending Aug. 19.
“The volatility in the financial market got a lot of people worried,” said Mike Fratantoni, the association’s vice president of research and economics. Reports of slowing economic growth, he added, may also have consumers concerned about job security, leading to a retreat from the mortgage market.
Not that credit union members are immune from that volatility, but those in the Washington area, with its heavy concentration of government workers, may not feel as constricted.
“Most of our borrowers have stable jobs that they don’t appear to be worried about,” White said. “At the same time, if you can go from a 5 percent interest rate to a 4 percent rate, you’re giving yourself more breathing room for the future.”
Credit unions may also be seeing an increase in mortgage applications because of offers to sweeten the deal. Navy Federal Credit Union in Vienna, for instance, will pay up to $2,500 toward closing costs on a home purchase or refinancing.
Since rolling out the offer three weeks ago, the volume of mortgage applications at Navy FCU has surged more than 50 percent, according to Jack Gaffney, executive vice president of lending. “We’ve been averaging about 400 applications a day,” he said, adding that the offer will run through the end of the year.