New home purchase apps rise but lag year-ago levels

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March mortgage applications for new home purchases were stronger than in February but lenders didn't produce as many of them as they did a year ago.

New home purchase applications were 14% higher than the previous month, but they were 2.6% lower than they were in March 2017, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Building Application Survey.

The third consecutive month-over-month increase in new home purchase applications was "in line with the typical seasonal pattern at this time of year" after a strong January and February, said Joel Kan, associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, in a press release.

"Our estimate of new home sales for March was 682,000 units, a rebound of almost 8% after a February decrease," he added.

The seasonally adjusted annualized estimate for March is up from 632,000 units in February. Unadjusted, the monthly estimate for March was 65,000 new home sales, which represents an 18.2% increase from 55,000 new home sales in February.

The loan product type breakdown of new home purchase applications during March was as follows: conventional, 71.2%; Federal Housing Administration, 15.4%; Department of Veterans Affairs, 12%; and Rural Housing Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1.4%.

The average loan size of new homes during March fell to $337,597 from $338,078 in February.

The MBA's numbers are based on a survey that tracks applications from mortgage subsidiaries of homebuilders.

The association's new home sales estimate is based on data from its builder application survey, assumptions regarding market coverage, and other factors.

The MBA releases its new home sales estimates as an early indicator of the U.S. Census Bureau's official estimates.

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Purchase Mortgage applications Homebuilders Real estate Mortgage Bankers Association