News Release

September 25, 2017

As Market Pressures Mount, Lenders Continue to Ease Mortgage Credit Standards

Katie Penote

202-752-2261

WASHINGTON, DC – Facing constrained mortgage demand and a negative profit margin outlook, more lenders say they have eased rather than tightened home mortgage credit standards, according to Fannie Mae’s third quarter 2017 Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey®. Across all loan types – GSE Eligible, Non-GSE Eligible, and Government – the net share of lenders who reported easing credit standards over the prior three months reached a new high since the survey’s inception in March 2014, after climbing each quarter since Q4 2016.

On net, lenders’ profit margin outlook has remained negative for four consecutive quarters. “Competition from other lenders” was again cited as the primary reason, reaching a new survey high for the third consecutive quarter. In addition, the net share of lenders reporting growth in purchase mortgage demand over the prior three months has fallen for all loan types year over year, reaching the lowest third-quarter reading in the past two years. However, the net share of lenders expecting an increase in mortgage demand over the next three months remains relatively stable for the same quarter year over year. 

“Lenders further eased home mortgage credit standards during the third quarter, continuing a trend that started in late 2016. In particular, both the net share of lenders reporting easing on GSE-eligible loans for the prior three months and the share expecting to ease standards on those loans over the next three months increased to survey highs," said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. "Lenders’ comments suggest that competitive pressure and more favorable guidelines for GSE loans have helped to bring about more easing of underwriting standards for those loans. We believe that the GSEs’ attempts to relieve repurchase concerns and expand credit for creditworthy borrowers have contributed to the easing trend. Meanwhile, market competitiveness also led to the fourth consecutive quarter in which lenders’ net profit margin outlook deteriorated. The share of lenders citing competition from other lenders as the key reason for a negative profit market outlook rose to a new survey high.” 

MORTGAGE LENDER SENTIMENT SURVEY HIGHLIGHTS 

Purchase mortgage demand

  • The net share of lenders reporting purchase mortgage demand growth over the prior three months has fallen for all loan types when compared with Q3 2016 and Q3 2015, reaching the lowest reading for any third quarter over the past two years.
  • However, the net share of lenders expecting increased demand over the next three months remains relatively stable for the same quarter year over year. 

Refinance mortgage demand

  • More lenders on net reported declining demand for refinance mortgages over the prior three months, which has been an on-going condition witnessed this year, despite a slight improvement compared with the prior quarter.
  • Overall, the refinance market remains a stark contrast from a year ago, when the net share reporting rising demand over the prior three months hit a survey high. 

Easing of credit standards

  • The net share of lenders reporting easing of credit standards over the prior three months has continued its upward trend since Q4 2016 across all loan types – reaching new survey highs.
  • On net, expectations of future credit easing were essentially unchanged from the prior quarter, with the net share expecting to ease standards for GSE Eligible loans over the next three months reaching a survey high. On a year-over-year basis, expectations of easing showed marked improvement for all loan types. 

Mortgage execution

  • On net, lenders continue reporting expectations to grow GSE (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) and Ginnie Mae shares over the next 12 months and reduce portfolio retention and whole loan sales shares.

Mortgage servicing rights execution

  • This quarter, slightly more lenders reported expectations to increase rather than decrease the share of MSR sold and the share of MSR retained and serviced by a subservicer.
  • The majority of lenders continued to report expectations to maintain their MSR execution strategy. 

Profit margin

  • Lenders’ net profit margin outlook has remained negative for four consecutive quarters (since Q4 2016) and is significantly lower than this time last year (Q3 2016).
  • On net, while institutions of all size and type generally reported an expected decrease in profit margin, larger institutions were the most likely to do so.
  • Concern about “competition from other lenders” was cited as the key reason for lenders’ decreased profit margin outlook, setting a new survey high for the third consecutive quarter across all profit margin drivers.
  • The perceived impact of “government regulatory compliance,” which declined sharply in Q4 2016, has remained low. 

The Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey by Fannie Mae polls senior executives of its lending institution customers on a quarterly basis to assess their views and outlook across varied dimensions of the mortgage market. The Fannie Mae third quarter 2017 Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey was conducted between August 2, 2017 and August 13, 2017 by PSB in coordination with Fannie Mae. For detailed findings from the third quarter 2017 survey, as well as survey questionnaires and other supporting documents, please visit the Fannie Mae Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey page on fanniemae.com. Also available on the site are special topic analyses, which focus on findings and analyses of important industry topics.

Opinions, analyses, estimates, forecasts, and other views of Fannie Mae's Economic & Strategic Research (ESR) group or survey respondents included in these materials should not be construed as indicating Fannie Mae's business prospects or expected results, are based on a number of assumptions, and are subject to change without notice. How this information affects Fannie Mae will depend on many factors. Although the ESR group bases its opinions, analyses, estimates, forecasts, and other views on information it considers reliable, it does not guarantee that the information provided in these materials is accurate, current, or suitable for any particular purpose. Changes in the assumptions or the information underlying these views could produce materially different results. The analyses, opinions, estimates, forecasts, and other views published by the ESR group represent the views of that group or survey respondents as of the date indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of Fannie Mae or its management.

Fannie Mae helps make the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage and affordable rental housing possible for millions of Americans. We partner with lenders to create housing opportunities for families across the country. We are driving positive changes in housing finance to make the home buying process easier, while reducing costs and risk. To learn more, visit fanniemae.com and follow us on twitter.com/FannieMae.