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Mortgage lenders expect the demand for purchase loans to dwindle as a result of rising mortgage rates, with Fannie Mae’s recently released fourth quarter Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey® posting survey lows. The change in position, which comes following a positive profit margin outlook over the past three quarters, reflects the overall uncertainty in a post-election environment.

“The survey captured lenders’ bearish sentiment driven by the recent surge in mortgage rates—a level of bearishness last seen in the summer of 2013 during the taper tantrum,” says Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “The sudden surge in mortgage rates weighed on expected future purchase and refinance volume.”

Mortgage lenders expect demand for refinances to move opposite purchases, as uncertainty spurs homeowners to lock in a lower rate. Lenders also expect credit standards to soften across all loan types.

“Changes in market trends,” lenders report, is the top reason for a declining profit margin outlook—government regulatory compliance, which has been one of the top reasons in recent surveys, is now a non-factor.

“Downbeat production expectations suppressed lenders’ profit margin outlook to the worst showing in the survey’s short history,” says Duncan. “Rates could slowly unwind in coming quarters, reversing some of the expected decline in volume; however, the potential normalization of interest rates after a sustained period of strong refinancing volumes presents the biggest business challenge facing mortgage lenders in some time.”

Source: Fannie Mae

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