Shift to buyers' market in May reduced mortgage fraud risk

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Mortgage application fraud risk declined for the second consecutive month in May as housing market dynamics shifted towards the buyers, First American said.

First American's Loan Application Defect Index fell to 86 in May from 91 in April. April was the first drop in the index since last July. For May 2018, the index was 80.

Following the strong sellers' market conditions throughout 2018, market dynamics have shifted slightly toward buyers in 2019," First American Chief Economist Mark Fleming said in a press release. "Mortgage rates began to decline in January 2019 and are now lower than one year ago.

"Meanwhile, household income, the other component of house-buying power, has continued to increase, rising 2.8% in May compared with one year ago. Falling mortgage rates and rising household income have boosted consumer house-buying power."

While the inventory of homes for sale remains tight, nationwide, the number of properties listed increased by 2.7% over the previous year.

"House-buying power gains and improvements in inventory tilt the market toward the buyer," said Fleming. "But, what is the connection to fraud risk? Potential home buyers feel less pressure to misrepresent information on a loan application when strong sellers' market conditions wane."

For purchases, the defect risk index fell by 6.3% to 90 from April's 96. When it comes to refinance applications, the defect risk fell 7.2%, to 77 in May from 83 the previous month. In March, the overall and purchase indices were at their highest since the start of 2014, while the refi index was its highest since March 2014.

On a year-over-year basis, the largest increases in the defect risk were seen in Nebraska, up 39.1%; Hawaii, up 30.1%; Iowa, up 29.9%; New York, up 27.6%; and Pennsylvania, up 23.4%.

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Mortgage fraud Purchase Refinance Housing inventory Purchasing power Mortgage rates Underwriting First American Financial Corp.