JPMorgan buys more mortgages from other lenders as market shrinks

Wed Oct 7, 2015 5:52am EDT
 
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By Dan Freed

NEW YORK (Reuters) - JPMorgan Chase & Co, looking to stem falling revenue in its mortgage business as fewer Americans refinance, is increasingly buying loans from smaller lenders, a practice that competitors including Bank of America view as risky.

In the first half of 2015, the bank bought 62 percent of the $58 billion in home loans it added to its books, compared with 56 percent in 2014 and 37 percent in 2011.

While other big banks buy mortgages from other lenders, known as correspondents, JPMorgan has racked up the biggest increase among its peers in the proportion of loans it buys from others, according to data from trade publication Inside Mortgage Finance. JPMorgan is fighting for business in what has been a shrinking market.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, applications for U.S. home loans have fallen by about 25 percent since mid-January, when a temporary drop in rates spurred a small wave of refinancing. Since May 2013, when mortgage rates first started jumping amid fears the Federal Reserve would hike rates, application volume has fallen by more than 50 percent.

Fewer applications overall make it harder for JPMorgan to make as many loans directly to consumers in its bank branches. Still, JPMorgan's willingness to buy loans from correspondent banks is a sign that banks are comfortable taking more risk in the mortgage market, nearly a decade after the housing bubble popped.

"As they gain more confidence about the environment, they go right back to the correspondent channel for more volume," said banking analyst Charles Peabody of Portales Partners.

To be sure, Bank of America Corp avoids the loans, because it doesn't want to be exposed to bad decisions made by smaller banks that do the actual lending.

"There's more risk in being that far away from the customer," said D. Steve Boland, the Bank of America executive in charge of mortgage and auto lending. For example, a smaller lender could fail to verify a borrower's income properly, and just sell the loan on to a bigger bank.   Continued...

 
People walk inside JP Morgan headquarters in New York, October 25, 2013.  REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz