Mortgage Demand Drops to a New Low Despite Favorable Interest Rates


Hello, I’m Fred Wilson, a senior analyst at ABC Mortgage, a leading provider of home financing solutions. I have over 15 years of experience in the mortgage industry, and I’m here to share with you some insights on the current state of the market.

You might think that low interest rates would spur a surge in mortgage demand, as more people would want to buy or refinance their homes. But the opposite is happening: mortgage demand is at its lowest level since 1997, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Why is this happening, and what are the implications for the housing market and the economy? In this article, I will explore five factors that are contributing to this paradoxical situation and offer some predictions for the future.

Factor 1: High home prices and low inventory

One of the main reasons why mortgage demand is low is that home prices are high and inventory is low. The median sales price of existing homes in the US reached $363,300 in June 2023, up 23.4% from a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors. Meanwhile, the supply of homes for sale was only 2.6 months, well below the 6-month level that is considered balanced.

This means that many potential buyers are priced out of the market or cannot find a suitable home to purchase. According to a recent survey by Fannie Mae, 64% of consumers said it was a bad time to buy a home in June 2023, up from 56% in May and 35% in June 2022. As a result, fewer people are applying for mortgages to buy homes.

Factor 2: Rising inflation and economic uncertainty

Another factor that is dampening mortgage demand is the rising inflation and economic uncertainty. The consumer price index (CPI) increased 5.4% in June 2023 from a year ago, the largest 12-month increase since August 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The core CPI, which excludes food and energy, rose 4.5%, the largest increase since November 1991.

Inflation erodes the purchasing power of consumers and makes borrowing more expensive. It also puts pressure on the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates to curb inflation, which could further reduce mortgage demand. Moreover, inflation creates uncertainty about the future direction of the economy, which may make consumers more cautious about making big financial decisions, such as buying a home.

Factor 3: Tighter lending standards and stricter regulations

A third factor that is affecting mortgage demand is the tighter lending standards and stricter regulations that lenders have to follow. After the 2008 financial crisis, lenders have become more cautious and risk-averse, requiring higher credit scores, lower debt-to-income ratios, and more documentation from borrowers. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, the average credit score for mortgage applicants was 757 in June 2023, up from 729 in June 2019.

Coles County real estate transactions
Image by:

Additionally, lenders have to comply with various rules and regulations that aim to protect consumers and prevent another housing bubble. For example, the Qualified Mortgage (QM) rule, which was implemented in 2014, requires lenders to verify the borrower’s ability to repay the loan and limits the loan features that can increase the risk of default, such as interest-only payments, negative amortization, and balloon payments. The QM rule also caps the points and fees that lenders can charge at 3% of the loan amount.

These standards and regulations make it harder for some borrowers, especially those with low income, poor credit, or non-traditional income sources, to qualify for a mortgage. They also limit the options and flexibility that lenders can offer to borrowers, which may reduce the appeal of mortgages.

Factor 4: Changing consumer preferences and behaviors

A fourth factor that is influencing mortgage demand is the changing consumer preferences and behaviors that have emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has disrupted the normal patterns of life and work for many people, leading to shifts in their housing needs and wants. For example, some people have moved from urban to suburban or rural areas, seeking more space, affordability, and safety. Some people have opted to rent instead of buy, valuing flexibility and mobility over stability and equity. Some people have delayed or postponed their home buying plans, waiting for the pandemic to subside and the market to normalize.

These changes have reduced the demand for mortgages, as fewer people are looking to buy homes or refinance their existing loans. According to a report by McKinsey, the share of consumers who plan to buy a home in the next 12 months declined from 11% in April 2020 to 7% in April 2021. The share of consumers who plan to refinance their mortgage in the next 12 months also declined from 9% to 6% in the same period.

Factor 5: Increased adoption of technology and innovation

A fifth factor that is reshaping the mortgage industry is the increased adoption of technology and innovation by lenders, borrowers, and other players in the ecosystem. Technology and innovation have the potential to improve the efficiency, speed, and convenience of the mortgage process, as well as expand the access and affordability of home financing. For example, digital platforms and tools can enable online applications, automated underwriting, electronic signatures, and remote closings, reducing the time and cost of getting a mortgage. Data and analytics can enhance the accuracy and transparency of credit risk assessment, pricing, and servicing, reducing the losses and defaults for lenders and investors. New products and services, such as non-QM loans, alternative credit scoring, and home-buying bundles, can cater to the diverse and evolving needs and preferences of borrowers, especially those who are underserved or overlooked by the traditional mortgage market.

These innovations have the potential to increase the demand for mortgages, as they can make the mortgage experience more attractive and accessible for consumers. However, they also pose some challenges and risks, such as cybersecurity, privacy, compliance, and competition, that need to be addressed and managed by the industry. Moreover, they require significant investments and transformations by the lenders and other stakeholders, which may take time and resources to implement and scale.


In conclusion, the mortgage industry is facing a paradoxical situation, where low interest rates are not translating into high demand for mortgages. This is due to a combination of factors, such as high home prices, low inventory, rising inflation, economic uncertainty, tighter lending standards, stricter regulations, changing consumer preferences, and increased adoption of technology and innovation. These factors have different and complex impacts on the supply and demand of mortgages, as well as the profitability and sustainability of the industry. The industry needs to adapt and innovate to overcome the challenges and seize the opportunities that these factors present, and to deliver value and satisfaction to the consumers and the society.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *