CFC Regains Top Spot...

Servicing consolidation picked up steam in the third quarter with the nation's top-ranked firms controlling more of the nation's housing receivables.

According to exclusive survey figures compiled by Mortgage Servicing News, the nation's top five servicers controlled 42.61% of the market as of Sept. 30, a gain of 3.56 points compared to the same quarter a year ago.

The top 10 servicers controlled 55.72% of all housing receivables, compared to 51.98% at Sept. 30, 2003.

As of September's end, the nation's consumers had racked up $7.514 trillion in housing debt, a 10% rise from a year ago, according to MSN and its affiliate, the Quarterly Data Report.

One reason the top-ranked firms gained share is tied to Citigroup's purchase of Principal Residential Mortgage, Des Moines. (The deal closed earlier this year.) Citigroup's CitiMortgage affiliate picked up 1.75 points by taking over PRM's $120 billion portfolio.

But the market share gain is not solely tied to that deal. Over the past year many large lender/servicers, such as Countrywide Home Loans, Calabasas, Calif., have been buying huge amounts of closed loans (correspondent purchases) "servicing released."

As rates begin to rise and production volumes slow even more, servicing-released deals could become less common. (In the third quarter, competition in the correspondent market was becoming fierce.)

Meanwhile, in the third quarter, Countr-ywide became the nation's largest residential servicer, a title it has not held since 1995.

At the end of September, Countrywide serviced $785.9 billion in home loans, ranking first ahead of Washington Mutual, Seattle, which had receivables of $768.8 billion. (Countrywide is also the nation's largest funder.)

A decade ago Countrywide was the Big Kahuna of mortgage banking, ranking first (usually) among both funders and servicers, but that was before the nation's mega-depositories - Wells Fargo, Chase Manhattan Bank (now J.P. Morgan) and WaMu - went on a buying spree of mortgage firms and portfolios, pushing Countrywide down in the ranks.

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