FT.com / Companies / Banks – Mortgage activity surges at US banks
With average rates for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage now at about 5.2 per cent, growing numbers of borrowers have an incentive to refinance to bring down their mortgage costs.
But tighter underwriting standards for prospective borrowers, combined with funding and staffing difficulties for mortgage originators, are likely to restrict the supply of new mortgages.
“The mortgage industry is collectively unprepared to deal with a cascade of business; staffs were pared to the bone as the market for mortgages shrank over the past year,” analysts at HSH Associates wrote in a note to clients.
Mahesh Swaminathan, mortgage analyst at Credit Suisse, said that as a result, lower rates would not necessarily create a wave of mortgage refinancing on the scale that was seen in 2003, when credit markets were healthy.
“There is a lot of pipeline congestion. Originators don’t have the staffing or the credit lines to fund a lot of loans,” said Mr Swaminathan. “You have more due diligence which requires more staffing. It is not something that can be changed overnight.”
Part of the problem is that banks have directed the bulk of their manpower toward their servicing arms in a bid to stem the tide of mortgage defaults and foreclosures.