As last year’s high-volume mortgage environment wanes, lenders are shifting focus to address another set of challenges. Continued economic uncertainty lingers as consumers navigate towards recovery. As such, mortgage lenders have less clarity than normal to assess risk and measure performance in their servicing portfolios. On top of that, more lenders are struggling with customer retention than ever before, due to a historically low rate environment in 2020. These combined factors create a new set of challenges servicers will face in the coming months. We explore a few of these challenges below.
An incomplete picture of risk
The CARES Act accommodation reporting structure has made it challenging for servicing teams to fully understand the impact of forbearance in their portfolios. If looking only at a CARES Act accommodated borrower’s credit profile, there is no indication whether that consumer would otherwise be delinquent or headed towards default. In turn, lenders cannot model out risk based on this information alone. Borrowers’ financial situations can still change rapidly, and some are still struggling to regain their financial footing.
Property data also plays a part in a holistic view of risk. Partly due to lack of housing inventory, home equity continues to rise in many areas of the country, yet there is still uncertainty around whether prices are overinflated, whether the market will correct itself and by how much, and the impact the foreclosure moratorium may have on one’s portfolio. And property dynamics continue to change due to consumer migration stemming from the onset of virtual or hybrid work environments, where homeowners are less bound geographically to a place of work. Being able to have insight into a holistic view of risk is critical to navigating the upcoming months in mortgage servicing.
Low borrower retention
2020’s prevailing low-rate environment continues to persist well into 2021 creating a big challenge for mortgage servicers in terms of borrower retention. Borrowers continue to be incentivized to refinance, and in some instances multiple times, to capture the savings throughout the life of their mortgage. Every time a borrower refinances, the lender who’s servicing the loan risks losing the borrower to another lender. This portfolio runoff can create losses for the lender; high portfolio run off rates have shown to negatively impact portfolio performance and investor credibility while increasing marketing cost for new customer acquisition. In our Mortgage in 2021 webinar, we point to the sheer magnitude of this – at the end of 2020, a whopping 33% of first mortgages were less than a year old.
Additionally, with the uptick in the number of fintech mortgage lenders and aggregation websites, it has become increasingly easy for consumers to shop for alternative options. Being able to predict the consumers likely to refinance can help servicers retain existing customers and reduce losses.
Lack of operational efficiency
Lenders and servicers had to increase the capacity of their systems, oftentimes at the turn of a dime, due to last year’s record-breaking origination volumes. This led to massive growing pains while simultaneously stress-testing a company’s systems and processes. As a result, the overall cost to produce a mortgage has risen.
Borrower data hygiene poses a challenge for many servicers as well. There was a lot of movement in 2020 in terms of mergers and acquisitions which may also affect servicers’ operational efficiency. Marrying several disparate data points during such events can lead to borrower data inconsistencies and duplicates across loan origination systems. And as consumers come out of forbearance or deferral status, servicers are managing more calls to their inbound call centers, increasing the scope of the problem. Having tools to ensure data accuracy and correct consumer contact information can help reduce operating cost.
There certainly is a lot of pressure on servicers to optimize and be in a position to efficiently help homeowners in need as forbearance and foreclosure moratoriums end. But with the right data, insights and partners, mortgage servicers can navigate these challenges all while managing risk and enabling the business to grow safely.
In our next blog, we highlight what forward-thinking lenders and servicers are focusing on now to navigate the upcoming months in mortgage servicing.