The recent spike in mortgage refinances driven by near historically low mortgage rates has benefited the loan production process by the lowering the frequency of defects, fraudulence, and misrepresentation in the information submitted in mortgage loan applications, according to data released by First American Financial Corporation on Wednesday.
The First American Loan Application Defect Index for July 2016 reported a decline of 2.8 percent over-the-month in July and a drop of 16.7 percent over-the-year. The Defect Index in July was down by 31.4 percent from its risk peak, reached in October 2013, according to First American.
“The Defect Index continues to improve as the share of refinance activity in the market remains strong. According to the latest MBA mortgage applications survey, the refinance share of mortgage applications remains above 60 percent. The housing market continues to benefit from historically low mortgage rates, which are driving lower defect-risk refinance activity,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist at First American. “The average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage fell in July to 3.44 percent from 3.57 percent in June. Other than between October 2012 and January 2013, this marks the lowest mortgage rates have been since Freddie Mac began tracking mortgage rates in 1971. To the extent that lower defect-risk refinance applications continue to occupy a large share of the mortgage market, the overall index will benefit.”
For refinance transactions, the Defect Index declined by 1.7 percent from June to July and 18.1 percent from July 2015 to July 2016. For purchase transactions, the Defect Index was down 1.3 percent over-the-month and 13.2 percent over-the-year in July. These two Defect Indices are also way down from their peaks reached in late 2013, albeit at a much higher rate for refinance transactions than purchase transactions (41 percent compared to 24 percent).
“The benefits in compliant loan production processes are becoming more clearly evident, particularly for refinance transactions, in the big declines we are observing in loan application and mortgage defect risk,” Fleming said. “Refinance activity, fueled by historically low mortgage rates, combined with improved loan manufacturing processes are resulting in higher quality loan applications with the lowest level of defects and misrepresentation that we have seen in recent history.”