About 97% of all homeowners prefer to apply for mortgages in person, according to a survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The finding suggests that there might be tough sledding ahead for lenders considering alternative marketing channels for mortgages, such as the Internet, phone, and video conferencing.

The survey uncovered other consumer preferences that could be useful to lenders.

"The findings are expected to help mortgage lenders more precisely target current homeowners to refinance, as well as help them retain their own current borrowers," said David Lereah, the MBA's chief economist.

"Further, the information contained in the study provides investment bankers and institutional investors with an analysis of which types of mortgages are likely to refinance, in order to better predict prepayment speeds on mortgage-backed securities."

The MBA said the final report and a data tape of the complete study, "Mortgage Refinancing Practices and Decision-Making Dynamics," is available for purchase. The tape provides extensive demographic data that can be sorted and stratified by 169 fields, according to the announcement.

All 1,500 respondents originated or refinanced a loan between January 1991 and March 1996.

The survey found that borrowers had limited loyalty to their current lender. About three-quarters of the 1,500 respondents to the survey were willing to consider lenders in addition to their present provider.

About 80% of those who plan to remain in their homes more than five years said they would refinance if rates fell by one to two percentage points. More than half reported having refinanced their original mortgages, motivated primarily by attractive rates and lower fees.

Other key findings:

*Some 80% of those who refinanced now have fixed-rate loans.

*About three-quarters of those who did not refinance already had fixed- rate loans, and two-thirds have loans with rates of 6.6% to 8%.

*About a third of those who refinanced took out loans larger than their outstanding balances.

*About half of the respondents said "too much paperwork" was the major difficulty in the refinancing process.

The study was sponsored by the MBA, Citicorp Mortgage Inc., First Union Mortgage Corp., First Chicago NBD Mortgage and Norwest Mortgage Inc. and was conducted by R.S. Carmichael & Co., a market research company.

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