Mortgage servicing demand jumps across US amid housing slowdown

During the recession, that sector had been profitable in dealing with troubled mortgages

(Credit: iStock)
(Credit: iStock)

Amid the recent nationwide housing market slowdown, there has been a jump in demand for servicing mortgage payments.

Mortgage servicers — the first to deal with troubled mortgages — were very profitable after the last recession, but struggled as the housing market improved. Now, things are beginning to shift again.

Sales of mortgage servicing rights tallied $600 billion in loans backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae, according to the Wall Street Journal. That amounted to a 14 percent rise compared to 2017 in loans from those government sponsored enterprises.

Mortgage servicers are responsible for handling borrower’s mortgage payments and for making sure that taxes and insurance are paid.

Some of the largest private servicers such as West Palm Beach, Florida-based Ocwen have also faced lawsuits over mishandling of mortgage payments and improperly foreclosing on homes.

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Banks and non-banks have become more interested in that line of business. Smaller lenders are looking to sell those rights because they don’t have enough capital to hold the mortgages during a downturn, the Journal reported.

One company, New Residential Investment, just reported it bought $114 billion of servicing rights of loans, according to the Journal. New Residential, a real estate investment trust managed by Fortress Investment Group, provided the news during its fourth quarter earnings release Tuesday.

A number of recent data points and reports have signaled that the post-recession housing boom may be coming to an end. Highlighting this point, in the third quarter of 2018, home flipping was was at its lowest levels since the first quarter of 2015.

[WSJ]Keith Larsen