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Quarterly residential mortgage production by lender. Subprime, Alt-A, home equity and conforming originations. Volume by quarter since 2003.

2017 1st Lien Lending Down, Home Equity Lending Up

Home-equity assets decline

April 4, 2018

By Mortgage Daily staff

Although refinances were an albatross for last year's first-lien loan originations, home-equity production moved higher. Home-equity assets were diminished, though.

From Jan. 1, 2017, through the end of last year, home lenders originated 7.27 million U.S. first mortgages. The total includes purchase financing and refinances.

That turned out to be 13.2 percent fewer first mortgages than were originated in all of 2016. Based on the decrease, 2016 first-mortgage production was approximately 8.38 million.

Equifax, which provided the details Wednesday, said the year-over-year decline was the result of slowing refinances.

But things have improved since the financial crisis.

"Despite nearing the pre-Great Recession peak in nominal terms, the market for first mortgages is in a much healthier place than in 2008, with low interest rates and normalized home prices supporting affordability," Equifax Deputy Chief Economist Gunnar Blix said in the report.

Another 771,300 home-equity loans were closed last year, jumping 12.3 percent from roughly 686,800 in 2016. By dollar volume, HEL production was 12.3 percent higher than the preceding year.

Also escalating was the origination of home-equity lines of credit, by 1.1 percent to nearly 1.45 million during 2017 -- bringing estimated 2016 HELOC production to around 1.43 million.

Equifax noted that HELs outstanding have continued a steady decline since peaking in 2007 -- with HEL balances down more than 65 percent since the peak and the number of accounts off nearly 61 percent.

The report had aggregate outstanding unpaid principal balances on HELOCs ending last year at $418 billion, down 6.2 percent from a year earlier when the estimated balance was approximately $446 billion. HELOCs outstandings topped out at $677 billion in May 2009.

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