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VOL. 131 | NO. 30 | Thursday, February 11, 2016

Mortgage Market Sees Small January Dip

By Andy Meek

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Shelby County’s mortgage market kicked off 2016 reflecting a bit of the backwards step other sectors of the economy, such as the stock market, have taken in recent weeks.

Looking at purchase activity, new mortgage numbers available for January show mortgage volume last month slipped 3 percent to $86.7 million, compared with $89.4 million in January 2015. That’s according to real estate information company Chandler Reports, chandlerreports.com.

The average amount of each mortgage saw a similar decline. That number likewise fell a bit over the two Januarys – from $163,692 to $157,590, a 3.7 percent dip. Meanwhile, the number of mortgages themselves was essentially flat, with 550 last month compared with 546 in January 2015.

The month’s performance doesn’t necessarily portend more declines to come, some real estate and mortgage professionals told The Daily News. Consider it part of the normal winter slowdown, as the temperatures drop and mortgage activity cools as usual around this time of year.

“Rates are still good,” says Linda Sowell, co-owner of Sowell & Co. Realtors. “The new regulations are slowing us up a bit. We’re needing probably 45 days rather than 30, although sometimes we can squeak in a little under that.”

The numbers that the latest figures are compared against also make a difference. Broker Tommie Criswell said the January 2015 totals were a bit stronger than usual, which skewed the comparison between those and last month’s totals.

Other factors she and other professionals point to: low inventory and a volatile stock market, which may be tamping down appetite for signing on the dotted line right now. About the reality of low inventory, Jules Wade, principal broker with Coldwell Banker Collins-Maury, told The Daily News earlier this month that Shelby County has too few new homes under construction currently to replace the area’s aging housing stock.

All that said, though, it’s not just the comparison to January 2015 that puts last month’s slump into context: The dip between December and January was even more pronounced.

Volume was down almost 40 percent from December to January, from almost $139 million to almost $87 million. Likewise, the average mortgage amount was also down during that period, from $174,474 to $157,590.

That same pattern has been evident nationally in recent days. According to data released Feb. 3, the national Mortgage Bankers Association’s Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey shows mortgage applications were down 2.6 percent from one week earlier.

So what does the near future hold? For his bank’s part, BankTennessee president and CEO Jim Rout said purchase and refinance activity will tick upward from here.

“Spring is around the corner, and the mortgage market is hot,” he said. “Property values are increasing due to more sales in the area and low volume of houses listed for sale. As houses go on the market, they get a contract right away, and houses usually appraise for the contract price.”

Chandler Reports is a division of The Daily News Publishing Co.

PROPERTY SALES 38 38 12,796
MORTGAGES 27 27 8,030
BUILDING PERMITS 137 137 30,071
BANKRUPTCIES 44 44 6,108