Wichita mortgage activity lags nation

Mortgage applications, particularly refinancings, are on the rise nationally, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

But not in Wichita, where mortgage activity is sluggish, according to some bankers.

"If you haven't refinanced yet, you're late to the party — if you haven't missed the party already," said Gary Schmitt, vice president for lending at Intrust Bank.

The MBA's Market Composite Index, which measures loan application volume, increased 4 percent in the final week of April.

At the same time, refinancings are on the rise nationally, up 6 percent in the final week in April.

The refinance share of mortgage activity rose to 62.7 percent of total applications, according to the MBA, up 1.1 percent from a week ago and the highest figure in April.

Schmitt said mortgage activity is low at Intrust, but should pick up as the weather improves and the summer selling season kicks off.

"I think we've done a majority of the refinance business," Schmitt said. "We've refinanced a lot of houses in the 4 (percent) and below ranges and we're bumping the mid- and upper-4's now."

"We had a significant portion of our business in 2010 attributed to refinances," said Mark Sikes, executive vice president and chief credit officer at Wichita's Fidelity Bank. "But in 2011, we haven't seen any refinance surge."

The MBA reports that the average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages is 4.76 percent, down slightly from a week ago but still almost a point over historic lows.

The result is a sluggish Wichita housing market, said Sikes and Byron Tucker of LeaderOne Financial in Wichita.

"It's picked up a little in March and April, and some of that's seasonal because it's prime homebuying season," Sikes said.

"I think it's all contingent on the employment picture. If that and confidence improves, we'd think homebuying would pick up."

Sikes chuckled at the thought that 4.76 percent interest is "too high" for a refinance.

"I can remember when I was in Oklahoma and went from 13.5 to 10, I thought I'd hit a home run," he said. "What was I going to do with all the money I was going to save?

"Couple these rates with prices at this level, you'd think it's a great time from a historical perspective to buy."