Long-Gone Mortgage Trends, Ideas Could Make Comeback in 2017

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Everything old is new again in the mortgage industry.

The boom-bust cycle of refinancing is an obvious example, but a host of other trends and strategies tend to come and go and come again depending on factors like interest rates and the political climate.

"It is a cyclical business," said David Kittle, president of The Mortgage Collaborative, a mortgage and real estate industry cooperative and networking group.

It's been a while since the cycle has turned, but it's finally expected to next year due to the new administration and Congress and the recent rise in rates. Some mortgage-related ideas and market conditions from the past are likely to be back as a result.

Not all of the following retro industry market trends or proposals may become realities in the next 12 months, but at a minimum there will be more attention and buzz around them.

A Preference for Selling Servicing-Released

The long run of historically low rates since the Great Recession has made servicing retention more attractive to lenders than selling loans on a servicing-released basis.

That's because when borrowers refinance to take advantage of low rates, the value of mortgage servicing rights drops.

But with mortgage rates trending upward and discouraging refinancing, mortgage servicing rights could become more valuable, so selling them along with the loans would be more lucrative.

"As servicing values increase you'll probably see more servicers switch to a release strategy versus a retain strategy in order to bring cash in the door," said Danny Jasper, senior vice president in capital markets at Castle & Cooke Mortgage.

More Mortgage Debt for the Average Consumer

The average consumer's mortgage debt dropped from just about $190,000 in late 2009 to just about $184,000 in early 2013, returning to levels above $190,000 only more recently.

Next year, that figure is forecast to move more definitively beyond its seven-year high and approach $200,000.

Home price increases have been driving average mortgage debt levels higher even as consumers pay down outstanding loan principal each month. While high rates could slow these increases, the greater prevalence of low down-payment mortgages also has boosted the average consumer's mortgage debt.

"There can be additional contributing factors as well, such as how prevalent cash-out refis are," Joe Melman, vice president and mortgage business leader for TransUnion.

Cash-out refinancing will likely become a more significant percentage of refinancing with rates on the rise next year, intensifying the trend.

Optimism about Private-Label Securitization

Until recently the market was resigned to government domination of the mortgage-backed securities markets, which haven't had a significant private-label market share since the housing bubble in the mid-2000s.

But with Treasury Secretary-designate Steve Mnuchin planning government-sponsored enterprise privatization that could reduce the GSEs' market share, and rising rates making higher yields likelier, there is optimism about private-label securitization's growth potential for the first time in years.

"The reality is it is more talk than anything," but the volume of such chatter is more significant than it's been, said David Lykken, president and founder of Transformational Mortgage Solutions, a consulting firm in Austin, Texas.

Less Love for the 30-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage

Another implication of possible GSE privatization, combined with an upward trend in interest rates, is a bit of a return to the days when the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage wasn't as popular with lenders.

"I'd be surprised if the 30-year mortgage going away, but I think the risk of that is greater if you don't have the involvement of entities like Fannie [Mae] and Freddie [Mac]," said Rick Sharga, chief marketing officer at Ten-X, an online real estate platform.

The product could remain popular with consumers, but Sharga said, "I'm not sure private capital would be the biggest proponent of 30-year mortgages."

Thirty-year fixed-rate mortgages aren't so attractive to a lender when rates rise because the returns on the money they lend get locked in at a low, increasingly below-market rate.

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