Mortgages with loan-to-value ratios of 95% and above experienced a refinancing spike in February, indicating that the Home Affordable Refinancing Program continues to gain traction, Ellie Mae said in its latest origination report.

Conventional refinances on homes with LTVs over the 95%-threshold rose for the sixth month in a row to 12.1%, the highest level since Ellie Mae (ELLI) began tracking the numbers in October 2011.

Ellie Mae compiled the report after studying a sampling of loan applications that moved through its Encompass360 mortgage management software. About two million loans, or 20% of all mortgages, move through the system. 

Meanwhile, the average FICO, loan-to-value ratio and debt-to-income for closed loans showed signs of easing during the underwriting process.

For instance, the average FICO was 745 last month, down from 749 in January. This was the lowest point recorded since May 2012.

"The average loan-to-value hit 80% for the first time since July 2012 and the backe-end debt-to-income ratio was 35% for the first time since June 2012 — suggesting that the credit box may be expanding," said Jonathan Corr, chief operating officer for Ellie Mae.

The purchase market showed signs of strengthening as the run-up begins for the spring-buying season. The percentage of purchase loans rose to 32% in Feb., up from 27% in Jan. 

Additionally, the average loan closing time improved considerably, dropping to 50 days last month, down from 54 days in January, the report said.