Mar. 7: LO jobs; hedging, renovation, QC, validation, verification products; investor & correspondent news & metrics

“I saw a woman at Walmart with March Madness teeth… She was down to the final four.” No one is talking about 30-year mortgage interest rates heading down into the 4’s; many would be happy if they came down into the 5’s. Heck, forget about mortgage interest rates because they’re going to do what they’re going to do. Originators are equally interested in potential or existing borrowers. New data reveals that Americans are spending nearly as much on interest payments for credit cards and other kinds of consumer debt as they are on mortgage interest. But hey, if your client has their debt under control, LOs can help them by passing along Home Facts so that they can do an analysis of where they might like to live. (Found here, this week’s podcast is sponsored by Richey May, a recognized leader in providing specialized advisory, audit, tax, technology and other services to the mortgage industry for almost four decades. Hear an interview with Lending Tree’s Jacob Channel on the rent-versus-buy debate and just how far people should stretch their finances to achieve the dream of homeownership.)

Employment & transitions

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Unlock success with PrimeLending’s East Meets West Podcast! Join EVPs Karen Blakeslee and Al Velasco, the production leaders from the Eastern and Western divisions, for a lively discussion about the pulse of the housing market. Discover how PrimeLending empowers our loan officers to compete and win. Karen and Al also discuss leveraging new products to create more opportunities. Tune in for exclusive access to the wisdom of Dallas-based Branch Manager and perennial top producer, Mark Raskin (NMLS# 176513). Mark shares invaluable insights and proven tips, providing a backstage pass to success in today’s market. Check out East Meets West to learn why PrimeLending loan officers rank our engaged, experienced leadership as a game-changer. If you’re a top producer ready to turn up the volume on your career, contact Nic Hartke today!

Landmark Bancorp, Inc. announced that it has appointed Abigail (Abby) Wendel to serve as president and chief executive officer of the Company and Landmark National Bank, its wholly owned bank subsidiary, effective March 29. Wendel also will join the respective boards of directors of the company and bank, and succeeds current President and CEO, Michael Scheopner, who will serve in a non-executive role until his retirement at the end of the year. Congratulations!

Lender & broker services, products, and software

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Collecting interim servicing payments is a pain, but not with Fee Chaser. With its seamless integration into Encompass® by ICE Mortgage Technology™, Fee Chaser automates upfront fee collection and can handle those pesky interim servicing payments as well. Check out Fee Chaser by LenderLogix here.

Today’s mortgage landscape demands greater efficiency. Xactus, a leading verification innovator, makes it easy to obtain all the verifications lenders need to be more efficient and advance the modern mortgage. For example, with its ICE Mortgage Technology Encompass Partner Connect™ integration, you can streamline your consumer verifications. Encompass Partner Connect provides direct access to Xactus verification products including Credit ReportX, Flood ReportX, Undisclosed Debt VerificationX, Tax TranscriptX, Employment VerificationX, Income VerificationX, Fraud ReportX, and Social Security VerificationX. In fact, Xactus was the first third-party service provider to integrate credit with Encompass Partner Connect, and won the 2023 ICE Innovation Award for Lenders’ Choice for Innovative Service Provider. Heading to the ICE Experience in Las Vegas? Experience Xactus’ award-winning innovation. Stop by Xactus’ booth or email sales@xactus.com to schedule a meeting. For the latest updates and news about important industry innovations, follow Xactus on LinkedIn.

If you thought McDonald’s® invented the combo meal, you’d be wrong. The honor actually belongs to defunct fast-food chain Burger Chef, which introduced the classic trio of burger, fries and a drink as one meal. Known as “The Triple Threat,” it sold for just $0.45. While that kind of pricing belongs to a bygone era, lenders using Fannie Mae’s Desktop Underwriter® (DU®) validation service can enhance their validation processes by leveraging AccountChek by Informative Research to validate income, employment and assets with a single report. By using direct deposit banking data to evaluate income and employment, lenders can streamline borrower eligibility. Additionally, current AccountChek users don’t have to change their process. The AccountChek report they have been using for years already provides the needed transaction data to DU. To get started, visit Fannie Mae’s webpage, and submit the request form to begin the activation process.

Most lenders are painfully aware of rising loan origination costs, which is a common trend in a down market. But certain costs like credit (surging by 400 percent) and verifications (up by 141 percent) have soared disproportionately, with incumbent providers exploiting their market dominance as virtual monopolies. Yet some lenders are fighting back… Like Lower, which has found a way to save as much as 80 percent on these operational line items and win more loans. Sign up for this exclusive webinar taking place on March 21 at 2pm ET, featuring Rob Chrisman, James Duncan and Donielle Geiser (Lower), and Richard Grieser (Truv), where they’ll share their take on today’s market and how they’ve reduced costs on operational line items previously thought to be beyond a lender’s control. RSVP today!

Introducing the All-New Quarterly Conversations About QC Newsletter! Get the latest quality control news delivered directly to your inbox with QC Ally’s new email newsletter. Designed to be your trusted loan quality resource, you’ll get the latest industry headlines, helpful tools designed to inspire your business, and regulatory updates each quarter. Recent features include eGuides to strengthen your QC processes, webinars discussing how to successfully implement new requirements, and industry conference takeaways. Sign up today to stay in-the-know on updates designed to spark discussion and inspire your business!

TPO, both broker and correspondent, product news

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Renovation lending fuels loan production, boosts profits, and fortifies housing inventory in competitive markets. Explore the rising demand for renovation loans with Planet Home Lending’s Guide to Renovation lending, tailored for correspondent lenders. From seizing opportunities to fostering robust partnerships, it offers a step-by-step roadmap. Request your exclusive copy today.

Freedom Mortgage Wholesale reminded brokers that it is historically, currently, and forever wholesale, and has posted some solid numbers about its status. In 2023 Wholesale increased its sales force by 20 percent, 25 percent of whom were rehires. Wholesale increased its Ops staff by 125 percent, 70 percent of whom were rehires. Freedom doubled its production two months in a row and is still growing.

But not to be overlooked is that Freedom is very active in the philanthropic arena through Freedom Cares. Last year it donated $660,000, used a holiday toy drive to raise $60,000 to support Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), The Salvation Army, and Toys for Tots, has, for 11 years, donated over $100,000 and nearly 2,000 backpacks (with school supplies) to Rucksacks to Packpacks. Freedom Mortgage’s employees and vendors raised $50,000, providing 500,000 meals for people facing hunger through Feeding America’s “Freedom from Hunger, and in 2023, through Project Gratitude, sent 1045 handwritten and video thank you messages to active-duty service members. And let’s not dismiss the 2,300 logged hours of employee volunteer engagement.

The real estate investment trust affiliated with Angel Oak Companies posted a $28.6 million profit in the fourth quarter. For the full year of 2023, the REIT generated a profit of $33.7 million; all but forgotten is 2022’s reported loss of $187.8 million. Angel Oak REIT participated in four non-qualified mortgage securitizations in 2023, contributing $662 million in unpaid principal balance to the issuance. The REIT’s earnings increased after it sold off non-QMs with relatively low interest rates. Its statistics reflect the industry’s: The REIT held $380 million in whole loans at the end of the fourth quarter, up from the $284 million held at the end of the third quarter. The company increased the weighted average coupon on its whole-loan portfolio to 6.78 percent as of the end of the fourth quarter compared with an average WAC of 5.83 percent at the end of the third quarter. As of the end of February, the WAC on the REIT’s portfolio had increased to 7.14 percent.

One should know the big news from Fannie Mae: Lenders now will be able to validate assets, income, and employment with a single 12-month asset report in Desktop Underwriter®. That same asset report will also identify the borrower’s positive rent payment history and cash flow history. This could be a boon for both lenders and homebuyers: Think faster cycle times, less paperwork, and enhanced access to credit, not to mention the ability for lenders to get Day 1 Certainty®, which can help improve loan quality and reduce the risk of repurchase. “Fannie Mae is continually focused on modernizing the mortgage finance experience and exploring new ways to help our lenders open more doors for aspiring homeowners in a responsible and sustainable way. With this new update in Desktop Underwriter, we are removing a hurdle from the loan application process and bringing greater speed, simplicity, and certainty to both lenders and borrowers,” said Cyndi Danko, Fannie Mae’s SVP and Single-Family Chief Credit Officer. The enhancement goes into effect in DU on March 29. Reach out to your Fannie Mae representative for help getting started.

Capital Markets: Fed’s in no rush to move rates, up or down

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Interested in learning more about moving from best efforts to mandatory loan sales? Maybe you’ve already moved to mandatory and are looking for even more pickup and ways to mitigate risk? Join MCT’s Moving to Mandatory Loan Sales webinar on April 4th at 11am PT to learn how mandatory loan sales is helping lenders improve profitability while reducing risk. In this webinar, MCT’s Scott Holtz, Vice President of South Regional Sales, will discuss how to leverage mandatory loan sales to improve profitability, manage risk with pipeline hedging, and operational changes needed for the transition. Register for the webinar or join MCT’s newsletter to receive the latest educational content.

Between Fed Chair Powell testifying before the House Financial Services Committee and the latest Beige Book, there was a lot of Fed news for investors to digest yesterday. A slew of stronger-than-expected economic data has raised concerns that the FOMC is preparing to walk back its anticipated 75 basis points of easing in 2024, and the Fed Chair told the House panel that he’s in no rush to lower rates, though doing so will probably be appropriate “at some point this year.” He repeatedly stated that he does not see a risk of recession right now. Powell will be back on Capitol Hill today to appear before the Senate Banking Committee, though the potential for market-moving remarks is low.

The Fed’s Beige Book for March described overall economic activity since the last report as having “expanded at a modest pace since earlier in the year.” Consumers showed more sensitivity to rising prices and spending softened in recent weeks as businesses found it harder to pass through higher costs to their customers. Leisure and hospitality sectors varied from District to District, the Fed said in its survey of regional business contacts. Manufacturing activity was little changed while residential real estate demand improved. Employment rose at a slight to modest pace while price pressures persisted. If the economy evolves broadly as expected, the Fed is likely to begin dialing back policy interest rates 25 basis points between three and four times this year.

Ahead of February payrolls this Friday, we received a couple of labor market indicators yesterday. Job openings fell slightly in January to 8.86 million, and the number of job openings per unemployed worker was little changed at 1.45. The ADP Employment Change report pointed to the addition of 140k payrolls in February, slightly less than 150k expectations, while the January increase was revised up to 111k from 107k. The JOLTS data signal that the jobs market is slowly settling down, consistent with wage inflation pressures cooling and without a troubling slowdown in net job creation and overall economic activity. The gradual softening in the labor market will likely keep the FOMC comfortable in waiting a little while longer before beginning to cut rates.

Today’s economic calendar kicked off with Challenger job cuts for February: U.S.-based employers announced 84,638 cuts in February, up 3 percent from last month and 9 percent higher than the 77,770 cuts announced in the same month in 2023. Markets have also received the latest European Central Bank decision and remarks from ECB head Lagarde in her press conference, the latest jobless claims (217k last week, unchanged from 217k), trade deficit (high at $67.4 billion, a subtraction from growth), and productivity and unit labor costs (3.2 and .4 percent, respectively). Chair Powell will be back on Capitol Hill before the Senate Banking Committee to testify on the Monetary Policy Report later this morning, and other releases of note include Treasury releasing the details of the mini-Refunding consisting of $56 billion 3-years, $39 billion reopened 10-years, and $22 billion reopened 30-years, remarks from Cleveland Fed’s Mester, Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey, and January consumer credit. After the initial salvo of news, we begin Thursday with Agency MBS prices better .125-.250, the 10-year yielding 4.07 after closing yesterday at 4.10 percent, and the 2-year at 4.53.

Apparently, exercise helps you with decision making.

It’s true.

I went for a run this morning and decided I’m never going again.

Visit www.robchrisman.com for more information on our industry partners, access archived commentaries, or to subscribe to the Daily Mortgage News and Commentary. If you’re interested, visit my periodic blog at the STRATMOR Group web site. STRATMOR’s current blog is titled, “It’s 2024: Do You Know Where Your Servicing Is?” The Commentary’s podcast is live and at any place you obtain your podcasts (like Apple or Spotify).

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(Market data provided in partnership with MBS Live. For free job postings and to view candidate resumes visit LenderNews. This newsletter is for sophisticated mortgage professionals only. There are no paid endorsements by me. For up-to-date mortgage news visit Mortgage News Daily. For archived commentaries, or to subscribe, go to www.robchrisman.com. Copyright 2024 Chrisman LLC. All rights reserved. Occasional paid job & product listings do appear. This report or any portion hereof may not be reprinted, sold, or redistributed without the written consent of Rob Chrisman.)

Rob Chrisman