LenderNews by Rob Chrisman
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Sep. 23: Retail, DTC, wholesale jobs; Stearns picks up KB Home JV; Ocwen news; the impact of prepayments increasing

September 23, 2016

While the industry is buzzing about how Wells Fargo has unfortunately killed any chance to reform the CFPB (i.e., cutting back its power or structure), and that whoever supposedly prepped Chairman Stumpf for this testimony should be terminated, recently I spent some time in Milwaukee visiting with the folks from Inlanta Mortgage. It was refreshing to hear them talk about “mortgage banking for grown-ups,” and their mood reflected that of the industry: hopeful optimism that doing the right thing will prevail in the long run. Also going on in Wisconsin is evidence that the seasons are changing. Welcome to fall: yesterday, mid-day, was the autumnal equinox. In many parts of the nation leaves are starting to turn color and drop to the ground. And then what? The California Law Offices of Peter Brewer came out with a piece titled, “Real Estate Law Considerations for Fallen Leaves.
 
In retail news, Russ Warner has joined City First Mortgage Services, LLC to help nationwide development. City First, established as a mortgage banker in 1992, with strong leadership and core values, is looking for leadership with branch managers and regional managers in Texas, California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and Florida. City First isn’t looking to grow for just the sake of growth like other mortgage companies, but find the next generation of leadership that has the same core values. City First is also proud to announce Ken Goldsmith, President of the UAMP, has joined City First as Onboarding Specialist. For more information on City First click the link above or contact Russ Warner, VP National Sales (801.599.7447).
 
Another lender is launching a CD channel and this one is already a household name: Ally Bank. Ally is the leading digital financial services company and a top 25 U.S. financial holding company offering financial products for consumers, businesses, automotive dealers and corporate clients. “We have been named the ‘Best Online Bank’ for the 5th consecutive year, and now they are making a big push into the mortgage industry. We have over 5 million bank customers ready to be cross sold. Ally is launching a Consumer Direct channel in Charlotte, NC, and is looking for Loan Originators who want to be on the ground floor of this opportunity. An LO at Ally will enjoy a lot of lead opportunities from current Ally customers, will have a great work environment and a company with great benefits and growth potential.” Please see Ally MLO for more details or here to send an email if you are interested. 
 
In wholesale news HomeBridge Wholesale is strengthening its commitment to the Southeast region with the addition of Dennis Waxman and Rich Linderman, two noted wholesale industry veterans. Rich Linderman has joined HomeBridge as the Florida Area Sales Manager, reporting to Dennis Waxman, who will oversee HomeBridge Wholesales’ Southeast sales as Regional Sales Manager. A highly decorated industry veteran, Dennis Waxman is a TPO leader and known in the industry for aligning customers with the right internal teammates to create thriving synergies. Rich Linderman joins HomeBridge with a diverse professional portfolio that includes more than 15 years of experience in wholesale, correspondent and retail mortgage lending. Linderman will be responsible for managing HomeBridge Wholesale’s account executives across the state of Florida. And HomeBridge Wholesale will be launching its Orlando, FL operations center next week. HomeBridge Wholesale continues to grow in the Southeast and is looking to recruit AEs throughout the region and Account Managers for the new Orlando operations center. Interested applicants can email their resumes to HomeBridge.
 
Guild Mortgage Company has hired Wendy Wong as its first chief marketing officer and senior vice president. Congrats to Wendy!
 
Before going on, PRMG is spreading the word for folks to be sure to stop at PRMG booth 207 to obtain their VIP Tickets to PRMG’s 15th Year Anniversary Party at NAMB National, Las Vegas this Saturday the 24th at the 1923 Bourbon Bar located between the Luxor and Mandalay Bay!
 
Another group of people have been prohibited from working in a segment of the industry. “The operators of an alleged mortgage relief scam that preyed upon distressed homeowners are banned from the mortgage loan modification and debt relief business under a court order obtained by the Federal Trade Commission. The order stems from a case called Operation Mis-Modification. According to the FTC, the defendants, operating under the fictitious names “2Apply” and “UW Solutions,” falsely claimed they could lower consumers’ mortgage payments and interest rates or prevent foreclosure, pretended to be affiliated with a government agency or consumers’ lenders or servicers, and illegally charged advance fees – an initial $495, plus monthly fees that averaged about $399.
 
There are a few things to note with “the big boys” out there. KB Home announced that the joint venture with Nationstar would be ending and Stearns Lending would be acquiring the JV. KB Home sold just over $1 billion in loans to the JV in 2015 which equated to around 9% of Nationstar’s retail production for the year. Assuming a 1% net margin, the earnings hit for Nationstar is less than 5 cents a share. And this once again brings up the topic of joint ventures, MSAs, and the like.
 
While we’re on Nationstar, Moody’s Investors Service has assigned provisional ratings to 35 classes of notes issued by New Residential Mortgage Loan Trust 2016-3 ("NRMLT 2016-3"). The NRMLT 2016-3 transaction is a securitization of $301.7 million of first lien, seasoned performing and re-performing mortgage loans with weighted average seasoning of approximately 158 months, weighted average updated LTV ratio of 55.5% and weighted average updated FICO score of 694. 80% of the loans have been always current in the past 24 months, and 23% of the loans in the pool were previously modified. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC, Nationstar Mortgage LLC, and Specialized Loan Servicing, LLC, will act as primary servicers and Nationstar Mortgage LLC will act as master and successor servicer.
 
Remember that in August Ocwen, which is Newco spelled backward, had its servicer rating upgraded by S&P. Ocwen’s servicer rating went to Average, from Below Average, giving it the minimum rating levels required under its subservicing agreements. S&P upgraded Ocwen’s residential mortgage prime, subprime, special, and subordinate-lien servicer ratings to Average from Below Average, with a stable outlook. This follows S&P’s downgrade in June 2015.
 
And last week Ocwen Financial Corporation announced that, according to the recently released U.S. Department of the Treasury Making Home Affordable Performance Program (MHA Report), Ocwen is the leader in the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). “In the second quarter of 2016, the Streamline HAMP program helped 7,811 families receive a loan modification. Ocwen was responsible for 4,112 or 53% of the total Streamline HAMP Modifications completed industrywide. Since the inception of the Streamlined HAMP modification program earlier this year, Ocwen has helped approximately 19,000 homeowners in need initiate a trail plan under the program.”
 
But there’s more! Ocwen has granted a total of 324,939 loan modifications through the HAMP program – 20% of all completed HAMP modifications. It has completed 52% more HAMP modifications than the next best servicer. And it has granted 48% of all HAMP Principal Reduction Modifications completed industrywide.
 
Ocwen (OCN) shares have rallied +88% quarter-to-date. Why? The positive resolution of several major risks. In June OCN settled a potentially damaging outstanding litigation against the company, and along with its 2Q16 earnings release OCN announced that it was in settlement talks with the California Department of Business Oversight (CADBO) and had reserved $15M toward a potential settlement. And has noted above in August, S&P upgraded OCN’s servicer ratings to AVERAGE from BELOW AVERAGE, which substantially eliminated the risk that New Residential Investment Corp (NRZ) would be able to terminate OCN as subservicer on the $130 million of MSRs (mortgage servicing rights) on which the underlying “rights” belong to NRZ (as a result of its HLSS purchase). Importantly, the second leg of the regulatory risk reversal rally could come in the form of OCN achieving a settlement with CADBO and receiving permission from the NYDFS monitor to make a small MSR acquisition.
 
If you like “dashboards,” you may want to check out Moody’s “Q2 2016 Originator and Servicer Dashboard.” “The report features a spotlight article on how the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s final amendments to its mortgage servicing regulations are credit positive for RMBS. It further looks at performance trends among both originators and servicers of US mortgage loans, and summarizes Moody’s recently completed originator and servicer assessments.”
 
What does it say, or at least remind us of? Well, recent trends among RMBS loan originators include Five Oaks Aggregation Corp. and Two Harbors Investment Corp. announcing plans to discontinue their mortgage conduit aggregation operations, citing unfavorable market conditions. Lots of lenders out there are putting money into technology, improving their regulatory compliance, while more sophisticated data analysis is leading to better credit risk management and quality control. Additionally, some originators are replacing internal post-acquisition quality control loans reviews with feedback from whole loan investors and offering expanded credit products.
 
“On the servicer front, despite negative financial news from Ocwen Loan Servicing, Ditch Financial and Nationstar Mortgage Holdings last quarter, each firm’s overall ability to act as servicers remains unchanged, Moody’s says. The ‘servicer stability’ component of the agency’s assessments for all three is however ‘below average.’”
 
Should servicing for all conventional conforming loans be .250%? Perhaps not. The fee-for-service compensation structure, under which the status of a loan determines a servicer’s base fee, continues to gain momentum. “The structure better aligns a servicer’s costs with the performance of a deal, and facilitates the transfer of loans, should that become necessary. Moody’s also notes that the expiration of the Home Affordable Modification Program at the end of this year will have a limited negative impact on RMBS issued in 2008 or earlier, with default rates following HAMP and proprietary modifications now similar after converging in recent years.”
 
While we’re talking about residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS), the industry keeps an eye on prepayments, and mortgage rates’ impact on them. Refinancing activity tends to be the most sensitive to shifts in rates, but purchase volume may also increase as rates fall. Forecasting rates is notoriously difficult – no one has a crystal ball, and if LOs pay some service to predict the future for them, well, that’s their business.
 
But mortgage rates & costs may not fall much from here, or may drop below 3.5 percent only briefly. Many borrowers already refinanced when rates were low in prior years, including 2012 and 2013, which could damp the current wave. While refinancings are a positive for borrowers, they threaten to wallop investors managing mortgage bonds, which suffer when rates lurch unexpectedly.
 
Few money managers have protected themselves for rates heading downward, especially since “experts” have been forecasting higher rates for years. Low rates certainly put owners of MBS at risk of faster prepayments. But the experts say that as long as mortgage rates remain above 3.5 percent, refinancing activity will probably stay muted.
 
Mortgage prepayments, generally a good indicator of refinance activity, skyrocketed in August.  According to Black Knight Financial Services "first look" at its August mortgage data, the Single Month Mortality (SMM) or prepayment rate, fueled by post-Brexit interest rates, rose by 32 percent from July to hit a rate of 1.67 of all outstanding mortgages.  It was the highest SMM rate in more than three years. Keep in mind supply and demand determine mortgage rates!
 
Although the agencies are well versed in “nudging” lenders to sell them whole loans instead of MBS, Fannie’s trading desk sent out a note worth a skim. “To help assist you with the operational mechanics involved in trading, delivering and settling MBS securities with Fannie Mae’s Capital Markets Pricing and Sales Desk we have created the reference document in the link below. The Capital Markets Operations Guidelines – MBS document provides descriptions of common processes, helpful hints and contact information useful in MBS transactions with the Desk.
 
Who has time to watch rates these days? Plenty of people, and as hedging software continues to tell lenders to sell about 80% of their locks every day, the Fed continues to buy $1-2 billion a day using money from early pay-offs. U.S. Treasuries finished Thursday mostly higher and agency MBS “tightened” which means they did slightly better than Treasury securities: yesterday the 10-year improved nearly .375 in price, 5-year T-notes better by .125, and MBS better by .250. With the FOMC meeting over with, what’s left for the financial press to discuss?
 
Well, yesterday we learned that U.S. existing home sales slowed slightly. First-time buyers accounted for 31% of sales in August versus 32% in July and a year ago. To no one’s surprise despite low mortgage rates, limited inventory & high prices continue to restrict existing home sales activity. We also learned that the Conference Board’s index of leading indicators fell 0.2% m/m in August. And the FHFA Housing Price Index rose 0.5% m/m in July after climbing 0.2% in June – stronger than expected.
 
Today for scheduled economic news there is nothing of consequence. Agency MBS prices are pretty much unchanged from Thursday’s close, and the 10-year is at 1.62%.
 
 
The flat earth society has members all around the globe.
 
 
If you’re interested, visit my periodic blog at the STRATMOR Group web site. The current blog is, “The Fed’s QE: Help or Hindrance to Lending?” If you have both the time and inclination, make a comment on what I have written, or on other comments so that folks can learn what’s going on out there from the other readers.
Rob
 
(Market data provided in partnership with MBS Live. For free job postings and to view candidate resumes visit LenderNews. Currently there are over 300 mortgage professionals looking for operations, secondary and management roles. For up-to-date mortgage news visit Mortgage News Daily. For archived commentaries, or to subscribe, go to www.robchrisman.com. Copyright 2016 Chrisman LLC. All rights reserved. Occasional paid job listings do appear. This report or any portion hereof may not be reprinted, sold or redistributed without the written consent of Rob Chrisman.)