Applications for mortgage loans have fallen to pre-pandemic lows, according to the MBA weekly index, despite historically low mortgage interest rates.  (iStock)

Mortgage activity sank last week to its lowest level since the beginning of 2020, according to a recent survey. This comes at a time when the housing market typically reaches its annual peak.

The findings from the Mortgage Bankers Association's (MBA) weekly survey come as mortgage interest rates are historically low, but limited housing inventory and high home values make it difficult to purchase a home. As homebuying demand falls, though, it might signal a shift to a cooler housing market that's more friendly to buyers.

Even mortgage refinancing applications continue to drop, despite the fact that refinancing rates remain near record lows. 

If you've been considering buying a home or refinancing your mortgage, it's smart to act while rates are still low. Read on to learn more about the MBA's findings, and visit Credible to compare mortgage rates without affecting your credit score. 


Buying a home is challenging right now, but it might get easier

The MBA's home purchase index is 14% lower than it was one year ago, suggesting a significant decrease in homebuying activity despite the fact that mortgage rates are still hovering near record lows. This is because the demand from homebuyers is outpacing the available inventory, causing home values to skyrocket and making the market more competitive across the spectrum. 

First-time homebuyers who are looking at the lower end of the home value spectrum are facing the most challenges, according to Joel Kan, MBA's associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting. While inventory is scarce across the board, it's most limited for buyers with lower price ranges. 

You’re not seeing a lot of activity on the lower side of the market. The lower end of the market is also where inventory’s the highest, that’s where it’s most competitive for buyers. That’s also where you’ll see the most home price growth, and that’s holding back a bit of purchase activity.  

- Joel Kan


Not even low mortgage rates can prompt a higher demand for mortgages, simply because the inventory just isn't available. But, there's good news: Experts expect more inventory to flood the market this fall, as lumber and steel prices level out as the supply chain continues to recover post-pandemic.

But today's competitive mortgage rates won't last forever. The MBA estimates that average mortgage rates are expected to rise to 3.5% by the end of the year. Further out, interest rates on a 30-year mortgage will continue to rise over the next two years, hitting 4.2% in 2022 and 4.9% in 2023. That's compared with 2.8% in 2020.

If you're considering buying a home anytime soon, it's important to get prequalified now so you can take advantage of current rates. You can prequalify through multiple mortgage lenders at once on Credible without affecting your credit score.