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Refi boomlet pushed October's mortgage prepays to six-year high

Mortgage prepayment levels were at their highest in over six years during October, as existing homeowners took advantage of the lower rates to refinance, or to a lesser extent, purchase a new residence, Black Knight said.

October's prepayment rate of 1.81% was 16.4% higher from September's 1.55% and 134.2% higher than 0.8% for October 2018. It's the most since May 2013 and comes just 10 months after hitting an 18-year low point in January.

Mortgage refinance application activity during that month peaked the week of Oct. 11, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. But refi activity fell off the following two weeks, before rising again at the end of October. Even with that increase, refinance application volume was 20% lower than three weeks prior.

But the rise in prepayment speeds is likely not going to be a continuing trend, Black Knight said.

"Modest rises in 30-year rates in recent weeks — coupled with seasonal slowing in home sales — may dampen prepayment rates in coming months," the company said in a press release.

Refinance applications submitted did rise during the first week of November, but fell by 17% for the week ended Nov. 15, the MBA said. Purchase application volume for that week was 7% higher than one year prior, it added.

Meanwhile, the mortgage delinquency rate — loans 30 days or more late on a payment but not yet in foreclosure — fell to 3.39%, within 3 basis points of the record low set in May 2019, Black Knight said.

That dropped by 3.82% from September and by 6.92% from October 2018.

About 1.79 million properties are currently delinquent in their mortgage, down 68,000 from the previous month and 98,000 fewer than one year ago.

The subset of properties 90 days late but not yet in foreclosure totaled 433,000, down by 10,000 from September and 66,000 from October 2018.

Foreclosed properties in the presale inventory grew by 3,000 from September to 255,000. This is still 12,000 less than one year prior.

October had 43,900 foreclosure starts, up 11.4% from September, but down 13.2% from October 2018.

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