January’s Refinancing Boom Slows Down


The refinancing boom of January 2009 is already trailing off. And if you’re waiting to refinance your mortgage until rates drop even lower, you may want to reconsider.

A rise in mortgage rates last week led to fewer homeowners refinancing their existing mortgages. Refinancing activity last week was down 30% from the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. But the trend goes beyond refinancing: The overall volume of mortgage applications was down 25% from the previous week and a whopping 44% from the same week last year.

As of Monday, rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages (FRMs) averaged 5.59%, according to BankingMyWay.com's Mortgage Rate Index -- a far cry from the sub-5% low of mid-January, but still lower than the same time last year when it was at 5.72%.

But even with the recent rise in rates, refinancing your existing mortgage may still save you money. (To see whether it makes sense for you, crunch the numbers using BankingMyWay.com's Refinance Calculator.) If you can qualify for a rate that will save you money, consider locking it in now. Accurately predicting where mortgage rates are headed is next to impossible. And while interest rates could drop back down, there's no telling when that will happen. Mortgage rates on FRMs respond to a variety of economic factors, and a major driver of higher rates in recent weeks has been concern over rising government debt.

The heads of Bank of America (Stock Quote: BAC), Citigroup (Stock Quote: C) and JP Morgan Chase (Stock Quote: JPM), among others, told Congress that lending was happening, but many consumers are still finding it hard to borrow. And it's difficult to know for sure whether the Federal Reserve's new plan to bailout the financial system and the President's stimulus package will improve the ongoing credit crisis.

Best advice: If current rates will save you money and improve your financial situation, don't wait around on the off chance that things might get better later on. A lower rate won't do you any good if you can no longer qualify for a loan.


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