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Mortgage lender HomeStreet shuts offices, lays off more than 100 full-timers

More homeowners tap home equity instead of refinancing

Community bank and mortgage lender HomeStreet is closing several offices and laying off more than 100 staffers, due to a lack of demand for its mortgage products.

CEO Mark Mason announced the cuts in a second-quarter earnings call with analysts and investors.

Here are the full details of those actions:

“Given the persistent shortage of new and retail housing and increased interest rates, reducing demand for both purchase and refinanced mortgages, along with recent decrease in our composite margins, we took additional steps in the quarter to streamline our mortgage banking operations by closing, consolidating or reducing space in 20 single family offices. These steps also include a reduction in headcount of approximately 127 full time equivalent employees.”

The office closures and consolidations are concentrated in Arizona and coastal California and will reduce the “lower profit, jumbo nonconforming mortgages” and reducing direct origination expenses “by exiting higher cost, lower market share regions,” Mason said.

Additionally, as part of its balance sheet management, just earlier this month, HomeStreet sold a piece of its mortgage servicing rights to Matrix Financial Services. The deal, which includes an unpaid principal balance of $4.9 billion in single-family MSRs, amounts to approximately 20% of the bank’s single-family servicing portfolio.

Mason added that overall, home loans are still going strong for HomeStreet.

Home equity loans increased over 9% as borrowers with low interest rate first mortgages begin to access equity instead of refinancing into a new higher interest mortgage, Mason explained.

“As mortgage rates continue to increase, we expect this trend to continue. The growth was funded by strong growth in business deposits of over 5% and growth in our de-novo branches of 6% in the quarter,” he added.

[Read the full transcript, here.]

Mason went to length to explain that the office closure and job cuts in no way reflect a waning interest in offering these products to its clients.

"We are continuously making efforts to improve the profitability of the mortgage banking segment while maintaining our competitive advantage as a market leading originator and servicer. Mortgage banking has been an important part of HomeStreet's history and success. We expect mortgage banking will continue to be a contributor to our success going forward as we work through this challenging part of the mortgage cycle."

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