A majority of mortgage lenders continue to expect near-term profitability to decrease amid rising mortgage rates and declining refinance activity, according to Fannie Mae’s (FNMA/OTCQB) Q1 2022 Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey® (MLSS). According to the survey, 75% of mortgage lenders believe profit margins will decrease in the next three months, up from 65% in the prior quarter, while 17% believe profits will remain the same and 9% believe profits will increase. Competition from other lenders, market trend changes, and consumer demand were the top reasons cited for the decline in profitability expectations. Mortgage lenders also grew more pessimistic about the larger economy in Q1 2022, with 59% now reporting that the economy is on the wrong track, compared to 29% in Q1 2021.
Compared to last year, across all loan types, more lenders this quarter reported reduced consumer demand over the previous three months for both purchase and refinance mortgages. Looking ahead, again across all loan types, fewer lenders than last quarter expect purchase mortgage demand to grow in the next three months, while the vast majority of lenders continue to expect refinance demand to decrease.
“For the sixth consecutive quarter, mortgage lenders expressed bearishness about near-term profit margin expectations amid headwinds from declining refinance activity, slower purchase mortgage demand growth, and narrowing spreads,” said Doug Duncan, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist at Fannie Mae. “For consumers, rising interest rates, lack of supply, and strong home price appreciation have reduced refinance activity and further constrained home purchase affordability, which, of course, is dampening lenders’ expectations of future business activity. Numerous uncertainties, including heightened inflation and the Fed’s monetary policy reaction, which must now also account for the inflationary impact of Russia’s war on Ukraine, suggest increased market volatility, but the general underlying, upward rate trend aligns with lenders’ expectations.”