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In 2020, home sales to rise but refinancing to dip, mortgage bankers say

[File art: Pexels]
[File art: Pexels]

The Mortgage Bankers Association predicts mortgage rates will remain low in 2020, rising to an average of about 4% by the end of next year, with the impact confined mainly to boosting home purchases rather than spurring refinancing.

New-purchase mortgages are anticipated to rise 1.6% to $1.29 trillion in 2020, according to the MBA.

New loans for refinancing homeowners are expected to decline in 2020 by 24.5% to $599 billion, primarily because of the surge in refinancing in 2019.

The total volume of mortgage loan originations in 2019 is predicted to be about $2.06 trillion by the end of 2020. That would be the largest amount since 2007, which was before the housing crisis and the Great Recession. The total volume is expected to decline to $1.89 trillion in 2020.

Geopolitical uncertainty and a slowdown in the global economy influenced financial market fluctuations this year, which in turn led to lower mortgage rates, said Mike Fratantoni, chief economist for the MBA.

He said he expects similar issues in 2020 that also could lead to slower economic growth in the United States, which will continue to keep mortgage rates low.

Fratantoni said he believes continued low mortgage rates and millennial buyer demand will lead to the slight increase in purchase activity next year.

Some refinancing activity is likely to continue early in 2020, according to the MBA, which also predicts price appreciation will continue to slow in some housing markets. As household income growth rises and price appreciation slows, affordability will improve, and home sales are expected to increase.

For homeowners uncertain about whether refinancing makes sense now or next year, a consultation with a lender provides a way to explore options and compare costs.

Online calculators on numerous websites also can help homeowners estimate their monthly payments if they refinance. A new calculator, DoIrefi, uses algorithms and analytics to answer the question "Should I refinance?"

The calculator requires a few simple inputs about the homeowners' current loan and estimates the net cost or benefit of refinancing. If the answer is "no," homeowners can sign up for monthly updates that tell them if the answer is different because mortgage rates have changed.

The analysis also depends on how long the homeowners intend to stay in their home. It assumes that the objective is to minimize overall loan costs and that owners will pay all closing costs upfront.

While the calculator may not give a definitive answer, it does provide one more tool to start the process of evaluating the benefit — or not — of refinancing.