Though lenders are suddenly scampering for business, the home building boom is continuing, with new home sales on the rise and most builders enjoying a backlog of housing orders.
Forrest Pafenberg, director of real estate finance research for the National Association of Realtors, said that lenders are seeing the market in an entirely different light than builders. He said home purchases remain strong for lenders and builders alike but the demand for loans to refinance, which accounted for about half of the $1.5 trillion of loan volume last year, has suddenly dried up.
Last year, he said, the number of transactions coming through the pipelines surged and lending rose. "The reason why lenders are screaming is because the refi activity went away, not because of purchase money mortgages," Mr. Pafenberg said.
The supply of homes is still relatively lean, and home builders say that they are well positioned for the months to come. Pulte Mortgage Corp. of Greenwood Village, Colo., finds itself particularly safe under the umbrella of Pulte Home Corp. The mortgage company's executive vice president, Debra Still, said that it makes the loans on about 75% of Pulte Home's business.
"As long as home sales are robust, our volume will not be impacted," Ms. Still said. "Last year, only about 12% of our business was refinances, where you had some of the larger mortgage companies doing 50% or 60% refinances last year. So they've lost half their business, and we're hardly noticing a difference."
A record 358,166 housing permits were issued in the second quarter, up 7% from the year earlier, U.S. Housing Markets newsletter reported Thursday. Through the first six months of this year, builders have recorded 638,405 single-family permits, a 9% increase from last year's record.
Mr. Pafenberg said that lenders who are vying for a piece of the shrinking volume are now looking back to real estate agents and builders for business.
"Those lenders who were smart during the refinancing period and satisfied the Realtor and the home builder are getting the business now," Mr. Pafenberg said. "If you pushed the Realtor or builder to the bottom of the stack to handle the refi activity last year, he's going to walk away from you." Lenders overlooked the home brokers and builders more in the past year than they had during the 1993-94 surge, he said.