A recent snapshot of Americans applying for mortgage loans showed the lowest weekly level in nearly 14 years, and it prompted some head scratching. Mortgage rates are enticingly low, so shouldn’t the number of applicants be higher?

Experts point to several factors for the trend: Though interest rates are low, home prices are up, and incomes have stagnated or fallen. It also remains tough to qualify for mortgage. So there are fewer homebuyers. Anthony Sanders, a real estate finance professor at George Mason University, calls it “the perfect storm” for making housing less affordable. The years-long wave of refinancing mortgages launched by low interest rates may also be nearing exhaustion.

               The Mortgage Bankers Association publishers an index that measures mortgage- loan activity. It fell in the first week of September to its lowest level since 2000, though it recovered a bit last week. Joel Kan, director of economic forecasting at the association, expects applications to continue to fall in the near term as the housing recovery toddles along. 


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