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Mortgage refinancing can’t help if low

Jeremy Hobson Mar 19, 2008


Scott Jagow: If you’ve been trying to sell your home, or you want to refinance, I know this is a pressing question: What’s the deal with mortgage rates? The Fed did another hatchet job on its main interest rate yesterday. It’s now 2.23 percent — a three-year low. But that’s what banks charge each other for lending. It usually spills over into the housing market. But it’s been slow-going so far.

This morning, we learned that rates on 30-year mortgages fell almost half a percent last week. They’re just under 6 percent. But mortgage refinancing was at its lowest level since December. So what gives? Here’s Jeremy Hobson.

Jeremy Hobson: Bad mortgages started this financial crisis.
And Tom Lamalfa of Wholesale Access says policymakers are hoping mortgage refinancing can help end it.

Tom Lamalfa: They want to see the market refinance out of the problems that it’s confronted with today. They would like to see a lot of these hybrid ARMs and these pay-option ARMs go away.

LaMalfa says the refinancing index is the best indicator of how much lenders are doing to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosures.

But Holden Lewis of Bankrate.com says lenders, worried about their own bottom lines, are hesitant to lower interest rates. And there’s another barrier blocking a refinancing wave:

Holden Lewis: I think a lot of people are paying attention to the value of their home and hoping and waiting for that value to go up far enough for them to be able to refinance.

He says in some especially hard-hit places like Florida, he doesn’t expect values to rebound for another three years.

In Washington, I’m Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

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