Mortgage applications for home purchases spike despite pandemic

Despite major shutdowns across the country to stem the coronavirus outbreak, more homebuyers ventured forward on their house purchases last week.

The volume of mortgage applications for purchases jumped 12% last week compared with the previous one, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. That was the highest weekly increase in almost a month, the trade group found.

California and Washington showed continued increases in purchase applications, while New York also experienced a significant bump after declines in five of the last six weeks.

“The ten largest states had increases in purchase activity, which is a potentially a sign of the start of an upturn in the pandemic-delayed spring homebuying season, as coronavirus lockdown restrictions slowly ease in various markets,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, in a press release.

A sign "For Sale" is displayed in front of a renovated individual House in Washington on April 24, 2020. - Sales of new single?family houses collapsed in March as the lockdowns to contain the coronavirus outbreak took effect, dropping 15.4 percent compared to February, according to government data released on April 23, 2020. (Photo by Eric BARADAT / AFP) (Photo by ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images)
A "For Sale" sign is displayed in front of a renovated house in Washington on April 24. Sales of new homes collapsed in March as the lockdowns to contain the coronavirus outbreak took effect. (Photo: ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images)

‘Uptick in purchase applications’

Digital mortgage lender also reported a 36% increase year-over-year in April purchase applications. The top state was California, which made up 14% of the month’s total purchasing volume.


“With $8 billion in applications since April 1, continues to see increases in applications across the board,” said Sarah Pierce, head of sales for the online mortgage lender. “While the majority of application volume is refinance, towards the end of the April, we did see an uptick in purchase applications, making up around 12% of our volume in April.”

Among lenders surveyed nationwide, the MBA reported a 17.2% spike in California mortgage applications, compared with a 2.9% increase the week before. Washington and New York witnessed increases in purchase applications of 16.1% and 13.7%, respectively.

‘Whatever it takes to get it done’

While more than 7 in 10 sellers nationwide have done away with open houses, virtual showings and Zoom notarization have helped bridge the in-person gaps.

Happy Asian woman social networking on a tablet computer and relaxing at home

“I just closed three deals through virtual board interviews, one in Zoom,” said Christopher Totaro, an agent at Warburg Realty. “But mountains were moved to facilitate logistics.”

It hasn’t been easy to close sales, Totaro said. For instance, he would spend several hours coordinating logistics between attorneys, buyers and other agents before the pandemic, but now he spends up to 40 hours on phone calls for a specific sale.

“The biggest obstacles were notary publics, but then Gov. Cuomo put down an executive order that we can now do it through electronic means, such as FaceTime,” Totaro said. “We’re doing whatever it takes to get it done even if that means driving somewhere to hand a document off.”

Dhara Singh is a reporter at Cashay and Yahoo Money. Follow her on Twitter at @Dsinghx.

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