Industry Briefs Mar. 8, 2021

Ginnie Mae Reports February MBS Issuance of $77 Billion

Ginnie Mae, Washington, D.C., said mortgage-backed securities issuance volume fell in February to $76.92 billion, down from the record $82.6 billion issued in January.

Ginnie Mae said issuance is fueled by across-the-board demand for government-backed mortgages as consumers increase home refinance and home purchase volume during this period of historically low interest rates. It said 274,787 homes and apartment units were financed by Ginnie Mae guaranteed MBS in February.

A breakdown of February issuance of $76.92 billion includes $72.21 billion of Ginnie Mae II MBS and $4.71 billion of Ginnie Mae I MBS, which includes $4.61 billion of loans for multifamily housing. Ginnie Mae’s total outstanding principal balance as of February 28 was $2.11 trillion, flat with $2.11 trillion in January, and down slightly from the February 2020 level of $2.14 trillion.

Black Knight: Lock Activity Suggests Q1 Refi Originations to Remain Near Record Highs

Black Knight Inc., Jacksonville, Fla., released its latest Mortgage Monitor Report, reporting 2.8 million homeowners refinanced their mortgages in the last quarter of 2020, which saw a record-breaking $869 billion in refinance lending.

“With rates on the rise, refinance incentive has been significantly curtailed,” said Black Knight President of Data and Analytics Ben Graboske. “Just under 13 million high-quality refinance candidates remain in the market – a nearly 30% drop in just the past three weeks. Added to that, retention of what is now a dwindling number of refinancing borrowers remains at record lows, with just 18% being retained by their servicers. Approximately 2.3 million borrowers were not retained in Q4 2020 alone. The current rate volatility serves to underscore the critical nature of both accurate and strategic pricing and advanced retention analytics to help identify borrowers who still have incentive and are out there transacting in the market.”

The report said rate/term refinances were retained at a significantly higher rate (23%) than those pulling cash out as part of the transaction (11%). Borrowers who took out their previous mortgage in 2019 continued to drive the largest volume of refinance originations (20%) and were also retained at one of the highest paces (24%). Those who took out their prior mortgage earlier in 2020 drove 8% of all Q4 2020 refinances, representing a large volume of early refinance activity. Among higher-credit quality rate/term GSE refinances, borrowers who left their servicer received more than an eighth of a percent lower rate than those who refinanced and remained with their current servicer. Much more detail can be found in Black Knight’s January 2021 Mortgage Monitor Report.

SmartSearch U.S. Launches Business Check

Anti-money laundering specialist SmartSearch U.S., Lehi, Utah, launched a corporate customer verification platform, in response to increased regulations passed by Congress at the start of the year.

By entering the name of the institution and a zip code, the online platform will provide an instant report which will confirm the existence of the business, provide lists of executives and owners, validate the corporate structure and automatically send OFAC and global sanction updates on the company and its executives.

MAXEX Expands Sustainable Lending Programs

MAXEX, Atlanta, launched two new lending programs to support growth of green energy home improvements. The programs, developed in collaboration with J.P. Morgan, further expand MAXEX’s new Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance business line.

The new sustainable lending programs expand financing flexibility by providing pricing incentives and enabling borrowers to finance green energy improvements into their mortgage balance at the time of purchase or refinance. This allows homeowners to amortize the cost of these green energy home improvements over a 30-year term at a below market interest rate.  These programs are now available to MAXEX’s growing nationwide network of more than 170 community banks, regional banks, credit unions and independent mortgage lenders.

Redfin: Home Prices in Cities Rise 16%, Surpassing Suburban and Rural Price Growth

Redfin, Seattle, reported the median home-sale price in urban areas nationwide rose 15.9% year over year to $292,263 in the four weeks ending February 21. This compared with a 15.5% increase to $332,291 for homes in suburban neighborhoods and a 14.3% increase to $284,593 for those in rural neighborhoods.

Although price growth is just slightly higher for homes in urban areas than the two other neighborhood types, it marks the first time since March that home-price growth in urban areas has surpassed that of suburban and rural places.

“For all the talk of an urban exodus, the housing market in cities is as hot as we’ve ever seen it, especially for single-family homes,” said Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather. “There are plenty of buyers out there with deep pockets who are coming out ahead financially during the pandemic. They want a house with lots of space while they are still working from home, but they also want to live in a walkable area near urban amenities as shops and restaurants reopen. Those wealthy buyers are willing to pay high prices to have it all.” Housing Markets in Mountain West, Midwest Hottest Through End of 2020

The Housing Heat Index reported Utah had the strongest housing market in the fourth quarter, while Hawaii had the weakest

Utah ranked in the top 5 for home price appreciation (15.39% – 3rd) – the index’s most important metric – past-due mortgage payments (5.2% – 5th), job growth in the 12-month period since December 2019 (0.59% – 2nd) and unemployment (3.6% – 5th).

Montana, which had the second hottest housing market in the fourth quarter of 2020 was also in the top 5 for home price appreciation (15.5% – 2nd), past-due mortgage payments (4.5% – 1st) and taxes (5th), and in the top 15 for job growth (-2.94% – 12th) and unemployment rate (4.4% – 12th).

Rounding out the five hottest housing markets in the fourth quarter of 2020 were Nebraska (tied with South Dakota for lowest unemployment rate at 3.0%), Idaho (1st in home price appreciation at 21.08% and 1st in job growth at .6%), and Indiana (top 11 in every category other than past-due mortgage payments).

“With home prices soaring and remote working the new norm, Americans have been taking a hard look at where they live — and many have decided to move out of pricey coastal markets,” said analyst Jeff Ostrowski. “States such as Utah, Montana and Idaho have proven especially attractive to Californians leaving the nation’s most expensive housing market.”

Fitch Ratings: Total Structured Finance Loss Estimates Fall Despite Pandemic

Fitch Ratings, New York, said forecast losses on structured finance bonds have fallen despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. It said asset performance was strong pre-pandemic and structured finance losses should be contained due to structural mitigants and the limited number of speculative-grade ratings.

“We expect arrears to increase for consumer assets as the pandemic hits labor markets, although extended forbearance measures and furlough schemes continue to cushion borrowers from severe economic dislocation,” Fitch said. “However, the positive impact of factors (such as tightened origination standards, rising home prices and low interest rates) that sustained strong asset performance pre-pandemic outweigh the negative factors of 2020.”

LAER Realty Partners, Century 21 Advantage Gold Partner with Adwerx

LAER Realty Partners launches the Adwerx Enterprise Automated Advertising Platform to power digital advertising for all of its agents. The firm is now automating online ads for newly listed properties, plus custom retargeting campaigns for every agent. Agents also have the ability to run local, personalized streaming TV commercials.

All LAER Realty Partners agents also receive access to a pre-made inventory of custom, personal brand ads through a self-service portal that they can run individually, complementing their automated campaigns. As a part of this portal, agents can target qualified prospects directly with personalized commercials on streaming TV services, giving them unprecedented access to TV as a marketing channel with custom targeting at an affordable price point.

Additionally, CENTURY 21 Advantage Gold, based in Pennsylvania, implemented the Adwerx Automated Advertising Platform for each of its sales offices. Digital ads for new listings launch as soon as properties go on the market and appear on Facebook, popular mobile apps and across premium websites that consumers and potential home buyers visit. The platform further boosts awareness through impactful retargeting technology that deploys custom branded ads to visitors of agent websites. Additionally, agents can unlock streaming TV advertising through a branded, self-service portal that allows them to purchase additional advertising campaigns on top of the complimentary listing and retargeting ads they’ll receive through the Adwerx program.

Black Knight: Loans in Forbearance Fall Last Week

Black Knight, Jacksonville, Fla., published its weekly blog, showing active forbearances fell last week, driven by month-end expiration activity.  Plans fell by 22,000, for an 0.8% decline. With more than 100,000 forbearance plans still listed with February month-end expirations, additional review/removal activity may be seen over the next week.

The report said despite the weekly improvement, the monthly rate of decline slowed further, falling from -2% to 1.3%. According our McDash Flash daily mortgage performance data set, as of March 2, 2.69 million homeowners – 5.1% of all mortgage-holders – remain in active forbearance. This includes 9.2% of FHA/VA, 3.2% of GSE and 5.2% of portfolio/private mortgages.