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No Refinance for You!

Adam Rust's picture

Posted June 1, 2010

The benefit of the liquidity nurtured by TARP is going to help people refinance their mortgages, and not to getting borrowers into new homes.

Data from the Federal Housing Finance Administration shows that only 1 in 8 loans made in the first quarter of 2010 went for a home purchase. More than 87 percent of loans made in the quarter were for refinances. With the exception of the first quarter of 2009, when less than 8 percent of loans went for home purchase, this is an inequality unseen in the last thirty years.

Home Purchase Loan Share in the Mortgage Market (Source: FHFA)

There is more than one type of refinance borrower. Some may include borrowers that are trying to get out of a loan with a resetting interest rate. Others may be trying to pull cash out of their home in order to finance a new purchase. Another group is probably made up of people who are current on fixed rate mortgages with affordable interest rates, but that want to take advantage of the historically low interest rates available to borrowers right now.

Fine. However, other data suggests that the people getting refinance loans are not drawn equally from all across our communities. More often than not, the chance of getting approved for a refinance loan is distinctly easier in some neighborhoods, than in others.

In a study (Paying More for the American Dream, IV) that analyzed mortgage data across seven different cities from 2006 to 2008, borrowers in minority neighborhoods were much more likely to be denied a new prime rate refinance. That inequality widened over time, too. During that period, approval rates dropped twice as fast in minority neighborhoods as they did elsewhere.

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