The MCT Review: Market Commentary Week of January 24

Are We in for a Housing Market Correction?

The start of 2022 has seen market corrections in risk assets, which has led to murmurs of a potential correction in home prices as the Federal Reserve’s tapering of asset purchases leads to higher mortgage rates. Housing prices have risen dramatically (nearly 20% nationwide, per Case Shiller and FHFA) over the past year, and even if many people feel that meteoric rise makes conditions ripe for a bubble, a closer look reveals that is not necessarily the case.

Simply put, housing demand is drastically outpacing supply, and higher mortgage rates should do little to change that dynamic. There are 72 million millennials running around wanting to buy homes, and, on average, 5 million people turn 30 each year, well above the recent 1.6 million-unit annual pace of housing starts and building permits. Builders aren’t building enough to keep up with demand, and very few people are selling. Aging baby boomers aren’t selling their houses, and large companies that bought tens of thousands of homes from 2008 to 2012 are content to keep renting those out rather than putting them on the market. Per NAR, December inventory of homes for sale was down to 1.9 months’ supply, a record-low and 14% below a year ago. The average amount of time that someone lives in a home has risen to nearly 11 years. Existing Home Sales fell in December, however, 2021 was the best year since 2006.

Low mortgage rates have helped create the current balance of supply and demand. Millions of homeowners refinanced into historically-low mortgage rates since the onset of the pandemic, which has helped keep existing home supply low. Those low mortgage rates have also increased home purchasing power and spurred those on the fence about buying a home to hop in on the action, or at least try to. Even with the recent rise in mortgage rates, they are still low by historical standards and demand has yet to wane. Rising incomes are expected to offset the increase in mortgage rates, meaning DTIs aren’t going to change all that much, and professional investors will still find mortgage assets attractive relative to other investment opportunities.

So, where are the murmurs of a housing bubble or crash coming from? The Fed has accelerated the pace at which it reduces monetary accommodation, and is expected to continue to tighten over the next couple years as it fights inflation. The resulting rise in interest rates will likely put additional stress on housing affordability. Some believe demand has no direction to go except to cool unless people start tapping their home equity to upgrade, a Covid migration 2.0 happens, or Millennials actually make good on their prime home-buying years.

Additionally, the rate of savings has also declined over the course of the pandemic and ‘excess’ saving will likely be eroded and affordability increasingly constrained. Fannie Mae has observed recent increases in debt-to-income values on incoming mortgage originations. There are also headwinds from Covid, labor shortages, and inflationary pressures that may moderate economic growth.

As the impacts of fiscal stimulus fade, Fannie Mae anticipates that 2022 will establish a new “normal” for the housing market, with inflation remaining elevated and home price appreciation slowing to the high single digits. Fannie expects GDP to fall to 3.1% for the year (still above pre-pandemic levels), home price appreciation to grow 7.6%, and inflation to start the year at 7% before slowing to 4% by December. Leading Economic Indicators, according to the Conference Board, are strong and ended 2021 on an upward trajectory, suggesting the economy will continue to expand well into the spring.

Fortunately, conditions are also much healthier from a lending perspective than 15 years ago. The mortgage industry is in a much better position than it was before causing the last housing crisis. Regulations (e.g., Dodd Frank) and oversight (e.g., the CFPB) have been installed to prevent mortgage assets from containing the explicit and underlying risk seen in the lead up to 2008. The current non-QM space is also originating to a higher credit box than the subprime and alt-a loans of the early aughts.

Rising prices alone are not a sign of a bubble. While the general lack of concern surrounding higher prices and increases in credit availability echoes similarities from that of 2008, demand in the purchase market should remain strong, even if rising rates and limited supply crimp the number of originations this year. The shortage in housing supply certainly isn’t going away in 2022, meaning that a decline in home sales is not going to come from a lack of demand. While few economists believe that the current run-up in housing prices is a bubble that’s about to burst, practically no one was worried about the housing bubble in 2007, meaning mitigating risk in your business is always a prudent practice.

Mitigating Risk in 2022 and Increasing Profitability 

There is nothing we love more than seeing our clients maximize profitability, regardless of market conditions. The advantage of having a sound lock policy, explicit hedging strategy, and robust MSR valuation is always evident, but it is paramount in times of volatility. And volatility has certainly gripped financial markets to open the year. The Fannie 2.5 is down about 2 points since the start of the year and the U.S. 10-year Treasury yield has gone up around 30 basis points. There are several ways we recommend mitigating risk to ensure profitability.

Shift from best efforts to mandatory loan sales. Selling loans on a best efforts basis exposes those doing so to the risk of market movement. The economic incentive for switching to mandatory delivery begins to make more sense when lenders reach roughly $10 million per month in loan volume. “Some lenders can expect a 20 basis point pick-up on conventional volume, and a 40 basis point pick-up on government volume,” according to our COO, Phil Rasori.

Another way to mitigate risk is by optimizing your investor set. It’s an often-overlooked way to easily pick up 12+ basis points, allowing your company to get the best price for a specific product you are selling, and in the most efficient manner. Most know what it means to get the best price, but don’t necessarily know how to go about it or how to achieve it effectively and efficiently. One of the main features of MCT’s Bid Auction Manager (BAM) whole loan trading platform is the ability to evaluate potential new investors before proceeding with the investor’s approval process, providing both time and money savings. And BAM Marketplace allows lenders to find competitive outlets even during periods of decreasing liquidity.

Don’t bank on rate-and-term refinances. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, refinances are set to decrease by $1 trillion in 2022. Although the refinance business was booming the last two years, this year it is expected to slow as mortgage rates begin to rise more swiftly. Purchase loans are going to take the spotlight and adjusting accordingly will be key. However, it’s not all doom and gloom: there is still solid demand for cash-out refinances and even with rising rates, the overall refinance population (sitting at roughly 11 million) still could save an aggregate of nearly $1.6 billion each month, or about $275/month per borrower. There are still over a million candidates remaining who could save at least $400/month.

Rising rates mean rising MSR values, which can help to provide stability in revenue from servicing. Portfolios have grown a lot over the last couple years, meaning servicing is now the primary revenue source for many originators. A sound MSR strategy can significantly lift your profitability,

Some other things we recommend include staying on top of your coverage, mapping your coupons correctly, trading frequently, having a strong set of decision making analytics and processes, putting together a budget, hiring a Chief Risk Officer, tightening up lock policies (tracking and managing rate exceptions more closely, no free extensions, and handling end-of-day locks, overnight locks, and weekend locks) and using AOTs to take the cash you’re making on trades and bringing it forward into loans.

There are always actions companies can take to mitigate risk. In both times of market calm and times of market volatility, MCT has software, and services for every step of the secondary marketing cycle. Give our 15 Strategies for Lenders to Improve Profitability Whitepaper a read and reach out to MCT for help in any or all of the above recommended areas.

10-Year Treasury Yield Curve

Compare this chart with the mortgage rates chart to see how the 10-year treasury and mortgage rates are correlated. Read more below to learn how mortgage rates are tied to the 10 year treasury yield. View raw data on U.S. Department of the Treasury website.

 

Mortgage Rates Today

The current MBS daily rates are shown below in this chart for 5/1 Yr ARM, Jumbo 30 Yr, FHA 30 Yr, 15 Yr Fixed, 30 Yr Fixed. Sign up for our MBS Market Commentary to receive daily mortgage news in your inbox.

About the Author

Robbie Chrisman, Head of Content, MCT

Robbie started his mortgage industry career with internships during high school and college at Peoples National Bank in Colorado, and RPM & Bay Equity in the San Francisco Bay Area. After graduating from The University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Finance in 2014, he went to work at SoFi, where he rose to Director, Capital Markets assisting in the creation of SoFi’s residential mortgage division before leaving to work for TMS in Austin, Texas. From there, he went to work for FinTech startup Riivos in San Francisco and now is the Head of Content at Mortgage Capital Trading (MCT) in San Diego.

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Previous Weekly Market Reviews by Mortgage Capital Trading (MCT)

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MBS Weekly Market Commentary Week Ending 9/23/22

The phrase “Don’t fight the Fed” was first introduced in the 70’s (a lovely time for inflation lovers) and for most of the last few decades, the phrase meant that the Fed has the market’s back and investors are rewarded for keeping their feet on the gas pedal as the Fed injects liquidity, dampens volatility, and drives outsized returns. But fighting the Fed cuts both ways, and Fed officials are now intent on taming prices, even though the economy is already in a technical recession. Investors have been forced to consider their positions accordingly.

MBS Weekly Market Commentary Week Ending 9/16/22

There are the unfortunate costs of reducing inflation (higher interest rates, slower growth, and softer labor market conditions) that will bring some pain to households and businesses, but a failure to restore price stability would mean far greater economic pain. Markets have interpreted recent Fed comments as: “We are going to raise rates higher and keep them there longer than the market is anticipating. People now understand the seriousness of our commitment to getting inflation back down to 2%. If we have a hard landing and cause a recession, so be it.”

MBS Weekly Market Commentary Week Ending 9/9/22

This year’s run up the coupon stack has led to the destruction of both purchase supply and refinance demand, which has drastically reduced prepayment activity. The Fed’s QE4 created a refinance bonanza in 2020 and 2021, but with the Fed leaving the MBS purchase space next week for the foreseeable future, that party is over. The MCT Review this week examines August prepayment speeds that were released yesterday and what to expect for the remainder of the year.

MBS Weekly Market Commentary Week Ending 9/2/22

In addition to raising the overnight Fed funds rate, the Fed is exiting the MBS and security purchase space as it wraps up QE4. The Fed will reduce its asset holdings by not reinvesting the funds received from maturing securities into new securities as it has been doing over the past two years. The MCT Review this week examines the Fed’s plans and the ultimate impact on a volatile bond market.

MBS Weekly Market Commentary Week Ending 8/26/22

This week’s commentary discusses market preparation and reaction to Fed Chairman Powell’s speech in Jackson Hole. As the Fed puts the brakes on the economy, the central bank is willing to let unemployment go up as a trade for getting inflation under control. Rate hikes are expected to continue as the Fed prioritizes driving down inflation rather than economic growth. Read the rest of this week’s market commentary for more information on the Fed and the MBS market.

MBS Weekly Market Commentary Week Ending 8/19/22

Every week the mortgage industry has new headlines. This week saw talk of Wells Fargo scaling back its mortgage division (possibly greatly exaggerated), MBA mortgage applications dropping to a 22-year low, and U.S. retail sales resiliently remaining flat despite a drop in gasoline prices, though the biggest story was Ginnie Mae and FHFA releasing jointly updated seller/servicer requirements.