Two years of pandemic borrowing is continually reshaping the way lenders do business.
Originators produced a record $4.4 trillion in volume last year, reaching an all-time high purchase lending and a 17-year high in cash-out refinances. But today, the mortgage industry faces headwinds on many fronts, including rising mortgage rates and seemingly unstoppable home price growth with a current average of nearly $364K nationwide, according to Redfin. Residential construction lending is up but the pipeline has a long way to go in alleviating supply.
As they head into the Spring, mortgage lenders and brokers predict a busy, competitive landscape but say more non-QM loans will fill volume gaps caused by low supply. Borrowers won’t forgo the peak home buying season and the industry will continue to adopt e-closings in a quest to ease the process of the transaction, experts said.
The traditional rhythms of the year are changing. As competition for limited homes ramped up over the past two years, some lenders noticed signs that the usual spring spike in home buying could be smoothing out across the rest of the year.
“We’ve seen the peaks in the spring and summer, but it actually picked up in December for some reason,” said Dan Dadoun, executive vice president of sales at Atlanta-based Silverton Mortgage. “The ability to buy a home online now has absolutely made that a bigger push during all times of the year, versus waiting for when it’s warmer out.”
Morty, a New York-based online mortgage marketplace, saw signs of consistent volume over the winter months even before the pandemic, vice president of mortgages Rob Heck said. He too attributed the volume to increased accessibility to online lending but acknowledged, along with Dadoun and other experts, that traditional constraints will keep the spring season healthy.
“New construction is still a big piece of the market and a snowy, snowy winter is going to impact that,” Heck said. “School is still at this point, sort of the same schedule. And so people are still going to be trying to buy and sell their homes around the school year.”
Lenders are looking to meet the needs of more borrowers with new, broader non-QM offerings. Home buyers chasing increasingly expensive homes pushed jumbo loan volume to a 17-year-high and securitization issuance last year was the highest since 2017. The trend prompted more lenders like United Wholesale Mortgage, Homebridge and Tomo to add jumbo products this year.
Mortgage firms small and large have also introduced bank statement loans, an option for borrowers who may be emerging from the pandemic and “Great Resignation” self-employed. United Wholesale Mortgage’s product has a limit of up to $3 million, and borrowers can have up to a 90% loan-to-value ratio with no mortgage insurance required. Mortgage fintech Wemlo also added a bank statement product along with a DSCR loan geared toward investors, and Plaza Home Mortgage announced its own DSCR Investor Solutions loan as well.
“More people are self-employed or doing their own thing if they don't have their tax returns. So we're utilizing those kinds of non-QM as a gap,” said Sean Cahan, president of Cornerstone First Mortgage, who expects his firm’s non-QM volume to rise this year. “If you don’t have those products, that could be a deal-killer. Buyers are really trying to get an easier way of doing business.”
Part of that easier way to do business includes further digitization of the borrowing process. Desktop appraisals are now permanently a part of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s underwriting systems, starting this month. MISMO is on the verge of debuting its e-Eligibility Exchange, powered by SnapDocs, which will allow the industry to have a centralized base of e-closing information.
Remote online notarizations are on pace to become the next ubiquitous mortgage tool given their greater adoption since the onset of the pandemic. Lenders such as Rocket Mortgage tout they can perform e-closings in all 50 states, but some states, such as California, still require wet signatures in hybrid closings and haven’t allowed RON. Lenders like Cahan at San Diego-based Cornerstone say they’re not as bullish on RON but are still developing the technology ahead of any changes.
Ten states last year made RON closings permanent, and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed her state’s RON closing law last month. Firms continue to announce new partnerships with local lenders and first-ever RON closings in states like New Hampshire, and MISMO as of February had certified 20 such platforms, according to MISMO President Seth Appleton.
“That’s a big piece I’d love to see get cleared up and worked on and adopted faster,” Dadoun said. “That’s where the puck is going. The quicker we can get at it, it would be a big market shift and an advantage.”
This article was written by Andrew Martinez from National Mortgage News and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.