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Home Equity Lending Ticks Up as Refis Plummet: Black Knight

MAR 5, 2014 1:37pm ET
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Home equity lending increased for the first time last year but overall mortgage originations in January were the lowest since November 2008, according to a monthly analysis of loan-level data from tech vendor Black Knight Financial Services.

Originations declined almost 60% from a year earlier in January, Black Knight said Tuesday. In addition, Home Affordable Refinancing Program volume, based on the most recent Federal Housing Finance Agency data, dropped 70% over the same period, to 700,000 loans. Prepayment speeds show "further drops in refinance-related originations," said Herb Blecher, senior vice president of Black Knight Financial Services' data and analytics division, in a press release.

The population of homeowners eligible for refinancing through HARP or traditional programs declined by about 13% "just over the last two months," according to Blecher, in part due to "the increased mortgage interest rate environment." Areas with the highest percentage of HARP eligibility include Florida, Nevada, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio.

The full-year volume of home equity lines of credit and closed-end loans, while up for the first time since the housing boom, was 90% lower than in 2006, indicating the negative equity crisis is far from over. The current resurgence in home equity origination is concentrated in "super-prime" borrowers, with average credit scores of 786 for first-lien and 779 for second-lien HELOCs, Black Knight found. As a result, as of January, delinquency rates on HELOCs originated over the past four years averaged just 0.1%, compared to 27% for HELOCs originated prior to 2004.

Meanwhile, property sales activity remained relatively strong through yearend 2013. In December monthly sales increased 3.7% year-over-year and 8.4% compared to 2012.

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