Fannie Mae: Fewer lenders easing credit standards

But report negative profit margin outlook for sixth consecutive quarter

Fewer lenders are choosing to ease their credit standards, despite their negative profit margins, according to Fannie Mae’s Q1 2018 Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey.

Mortgage lenders reported a net negative profit margin outlook for the sixth consecutive quarter, matching the all-time low reading from the fourth quarter in 2016, according to the report.

This lower profit margin can be attributed to competition from other lenders. In Fannie’s survey, lenders selected competition from other lenders as the primary reason, setting another new survey high for the fifth consecutive quarter. For the first time in three quarters, the next biggest reason cited was market trend changes.

But despite these challenges, lenders are not decreasing their mortgage credit standards. After rising for four consecutive quarters to reach a survey high in the fourth quarter, the net share of lenders reporting easing of credit standards over the previous three months fell across all loan types, approaching levels recorded last year.

“Lenders have faced an increasingly difficult market environment, as they report the most sluggish refinance demand expectations in more than a year, the most anemic purchase demand outlook on record for any first quarter, and the worst profit margin outlook in the survey’s history,” said Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae senior vice president and chief economist.

“Despite the pressures to remain competitive and profitable, signs of lender caution appear to be emerging,” Duncan said. “While more lenders eased lending standards than tightened them, continuing the trend that started more than three years ago, the net share of lenders reporting easing credit standards declined for the first time in five quarters to the lowest level in a year.”

More lenders reported having a negative view of consumer demand or both purchase and refinance mortgages. The net share of lenders who reported growth in purchase demand over the past three months was negative for the first time in four years, and fell to the lowest point since the first quarter of 2014.

Those who had positive demand expectations over the next three months declined to the lowest first-quarter reading since the survey began. Lenders also continued to report a downbeat outlook with regard to refinance demand over the prior three months and next three months.

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