The net profit margin outlook for mortgage lenders turned positive for the first time in nearly three years, due primarily to strong demand expectations for both purchase and refinance mortgages, according to Fannie Mae's Q2 2019 Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey®.

"Lenders are signaling strong demand-driven mortgage market dynamics, with optimism for both their consumer demand and profitability outlooks reaching multi-year highs," said Doug Duncan, SVP and chief economist at Fannie Mae. "Lender sentiment regarding both recent and expected purchase mortgage demand growth across all loan types was the most upbeat in at least three years. And for the first time in more than two years, lenders who are reporting or expecting growing refinance demand became the majority. With brighter volume expectations, the profit margin outlook improved markedly, helping the net share of lenders reporting rising profits turn positive for the first time in nearly three years, with consumer demand cited as the top reason for the rosier outlook. A lift in lender sentiment from depressed levels is an encouraging sign; however, many challenges remain, including the continued shortage of entry-level housing. In addition, it appears that the meaningful easing of lending standards is a thing of the past."

MORTGAGE LENDER SENTIMENT SURVEY HIGHLIGHTS:

Purchase mortgage demand

  • For purchase mortgages, the net share of lenders reporting demand growth over the prior three months rose significantly from the survey lows of last quarter, reaching the highest reading for any second quarter since 2016 for GSE-eligible and government loans and since Q2 2015 for non-GSE-eligible loans.
  • Demand growth expectations for the next three months also improved, with the net share of lenders reporting growth expectations reaching the highest level for any second quarter over the past three years for GSE-eligible loans and over the survey's history for non-GSE-eligible loans.

Refinance mortgage demand

  • For refinance mortgages, across all loan types (GSE-eligible, non-GSE-eligible, and government), the net share of lenders reporting demand growth over the prior three months turned positive after being negative for nine consecutive quarters, reaching the highest reading since Q4 2016.
  • Similarly, the net share expecting demand growth expectations for the next three months continued to climb and is now positive for the first time since Q3 2016 for GSE-eligible loans and since Q1 2016 for non-GSE-eligible and government loans.

Easing of credit standards

  • Overall, the pace of easing has trended down. Specifically, for GSE-eligible and government loans, the net easing share has declined to the lowest levels since 2014.
  • For the next three months, for GSE-eligible loans, the net share of lenders reporting easing expectations declined to the lowest level since Q3 2014.
  • For government loans, the net easing share for the prior three months reached the lowest level since Q2 2014 and, for the next three months, the net easing share reached a survey low (since Q1 2014).

Profit margin

  • Lenders' net profit margin outlook turned positive for the first time since Q3 2016. It reached the second most positive reading in survey history (since Q1 2014).
  • This quarter, "consumer demand" jumped significantly and is now the top reason cited by lenders who reported an increased profit margin outlook, reaching the highest reading since Q2 2016. The impact of "operational efficiency" declined but remained the next most important reason.
  • For the tenth consecutive quarter, "competition from other lenders" was cited as the top reason for lenders who reported a decreased profit margin outlook. "Staffing" is now the second most important reason, replacing "consumer demand."

The survey polls senior executives of lending institutions on a quarterly basis to assess their views and outlook across varied dimensions of the mortgage market. The Fannie Mae second quarter 2019 Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey was conducted between May 1, 2019 and May 12, 2019 by PSB in coordination with Fannie Mae.