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    The holidays saw the usual slowdown in the mortgage industry, but demand is still strong compared to years prior.

    According to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), we’ll close out 2019 with purchase loans up 5% over the year and refinances up a whopping 128%.

    Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s senior vice president and chief economist, believes the trend should continue into the new year.

    “We are in the slowest time of the year for the purchase market,” Fratantoni said. “Purchase application activity declined after the seasonal adjustment, but still remains about 5% ahead of last year’s pace. The increase in construction activity will bolster housing inventories, which should be a positive for purchase volumes going into 2020.”

    The jump is largely thanks to historically low mortgage rates. MBA’s data shows that rates on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.99% during the last week of 2019. Freddie Mac also declared that the year’s 3.9% average was the fourth-lowest on record. The lowest annual average was 3.65%, seen in 2012.

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    That’s not all that happened in the mortgage industry in recent weeks, though. Limits on virtually all loan products changed, and some new data emerged on delinquent loans, too.

    Here are the headlines you may have missed over the holidays:

    VA loan limits went away

    Starting January 1, limits on VA-backed mortgages were completely eliminated. They previously clocked in between $484,000 and $726,000.

    FHA limits increased

    The Federal Housing Administration increased its maximum loan amount to $331,760 in most places, up from just $314,827 in 2019. In higher-cost markets, loan limits go up to $765,600.

    Conforming loan limits changed, too

    Conforming loans — or those eligible for Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac purchase — saw their limits increase, too. As of January 1, conforming loan limits clock in at $510,4000, up from $484,350.

    Foreclosures and delinquent mortgages continued their downward spiral

    Just-released data from Black Knight shows November had the smallest share of foreclosure starts on record. The national foreclosure rate dipped 3% for the month and notched its lowest point since 2005. The delinquency rate, which includes borrowers who are at least 30 days behind on their mortgages, dropped 5% over the year.

    Finally, here’s how rates shook out over the last week, according to MBA’s weekly survey:

    • All 30-year, fixed-rate loans: 3.99%, 0.33 points
    • Jumbo 30-year, fixed-rate loans: 3.97%, 0.25 points
    • FHA 30-year, fixed-rate loans: 3.87%, 0.33 points
    • 15-year, fixed-rate loans: 3.39%, 0.26 points
    • 5/1 ARMs: 3.38%, 0.21 points

    Be sure to check back next week for more on the latest rates and mortgage news, or get in touch with a loan officer if you need more immediate guidance.

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