Less risk, more optimism in Vegas

Jonathan Corr: "What's going to happen to me?"

As thousands of mortgage bankers and service providers gather in a place that grooves on the promise of quick riches and instant pleasure, there’s a feeling that the industry has turned the corner, and we’re all headed on the right track.

Compliance is on the top of everyone's minds here, as new disclosure forms are set to take effect next year that will force all lenders to retool their business operations one way or another. People are also wondering about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mae, and what sort of impact that a loosening of lending criteria is going to have on their business. Meanwhile, there's the hope of a mildly more fruitful market this spring, as the Mortgage Bankers Association's latest projections seem to suggest.

Talking with friends and clients at this year's show, the mood is definitely positive–but there is a lot of self-assessment taking place, and some important decisions to be made. The mortgage industry has already transitioned, but the future hasn't yet arrived. Everyone gathered here in Sin City all want to know: What's going to happen to me?

As I see it, most lenders here will be OK. If they have survived so far, they've already adjusted for a smaller refi market, so they should be in position to take advantage of the market when it eventually turns. Due to tight competition and higher per-loan costs, more than ever, they are going to need compliance and technology to do their jobs. Yet the tools and resources exist to ease the pressures of compliance off their hands.

There's good news ahead as well, even if it does seem a little out of focus. We know there's a lot of pent-up demand for housing and that eventually the millennial buyers will start taking the plunge in greater numbers. To help things along, the market could use more clarity from the GSEs. Yesterday’s news from the Federal Housing Finance Agency gives me hope that this will happen.

Meanwhile, everyone in Vegas seem to have the same questions. Am I smart enough? Am I ready? These are good questions to ask, even if the answers don't come right away. It’s a positive sign that lenders are choosing patience and sound decision-making instead of taking another roll of the dice.

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