Why mortgage demand was better than initially reported last year

mortgage demandBy Nick Timiraos | The Wall Street Journal

New data suggest activity for home purchase mortgages was stronger than previously believed last year, raising questions about a leading measure of demand that has shown broad-based housing weakness this year.

Every year, mortgage lenders file data on every mortgage-loan application they take as part of federal reporting requirements under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, or HMDA. The Federal Reserve releases an annual summary of the previous year’s data in September.

Of course, nine months is a long time to wait to get a picture of mortgage volumes. For a timelier look, many market participants rely on an index of mortgage applications maintained by the Mortgage Bankers Association. That survey, released weekly, showed that mortgage applications for home purchases were running last week around 10% below last year’s level, using a four-week moving average. Things looked even bleaker during the spring and summer.

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