Mortgage Demand Slows Despite Low Rates, But Credit-Card Use Soars

(Los Angeles Times/MCT ) —

With mortgage rates at record lows for the year, you might figure that demand for home loans would be high — but at this point, Americans seem more interested in loading up their credit cards.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage came in at 4.12 percent this week, Freddie Mac said Thursday, up from 4.1 percent during the three previous weeks, which was the lowest level of 2014.

The average 15-year fixed rate was 3.26 percent, up from 3.24 percent last week and a low of 3.21 percent for the year.

But mortgage applications fell 7.2 percent last week to the lowest level since December 2000, according to a Mortgage Bankers Association report on Wednesday.

A recent flurry of refinancings was winding down, with applications for replacement home loans 11 percent lower than the previous week despite the best rates of the year.

Meanwhile, Americans’ credit-card balances were headed in the other direction, the card division of the consumer-finance website WalletHub said Thursday.

Consumers added $28.2 billion in credit-card debt to the books in the second quarter, the largest increase in six years, the study showed.

That was a reversal from the first quarter, when Americans paid down their card balances by $32.5 billion.

The average household had $6,802 in credit-card debt, the study said.

Financial experts say credit cards provide consumers with flexibility in managing their affairs and can help build solid credit scores when payments are made on time.

But they advise against carrying credit-card balances, since the interest rates are so high.

Mortgages taken out responsibly, by contrast, are one of the few types of debt that can be good for consumers, enabling them to build wealth through rising home equity over time.

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