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Homeowners Rush to Refinance While Interest Rates Are Low

What recession?

A recent conversation with a friend revealed the unexpected nugget that at least one segment of the credit industry is alive and extremely well. The friend’s mortgage broker daughter is taking a leave of absence from law school to concentrate her energies on processing all the refinance applications coming her way – a torrent so great that she is currently earning commissions well into the five-figure range every week.

The downside is that this window of opportunity does absolutely nothing for people who desperately need help keeping their homes. Something needs to be done for them, too.

new_american_gothicThis rush to refinance is thanks to the Federal Reserve’s commitment to buy large blocks of mortgage-backed securities and other debt from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in its efforts to restart the mortgage market. Because of the Fed’s cash infusion, the benchmark 30-year fixed-rate loan fell to below five percent recently, even as low as 4.89 percent. Mortgage rates haven’t been at levels like this since the 1950s. GMAC Mortgage reports that refinance applications soared more than 75 percent in January when compared with November.

Not surprisingly, the homeowners qualifying for refinance loans aren’t struggling; they are able to pay their mortgages and see a way to save some money. According to Scott Stern, chief executive of Lenders One, “The refinance boom is mostly impacting the people who need help the least. These are people who already have conforming fixed-rate loans or government financing.”

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