Who's the top mortgage originator in California?

Is it Bank of America, as shown in the accompanying table? Or Countrywide Credit Industries, whose Countrywide Funding unit is in fourth place?

Countrywide also has another unit, America's Wholesale Lender, that ranks No. 23, and together they would put the parent in third place, a hair behind North American Mortgage.

Countrywide, though, maintains that it is easily No. 1.

Variations on Lender of Record

The difference of opinion arises from the definition of an origination. The figures in the table were compiled by TRW Redi Property Data of Riverside Calif., a unit of TRW Inc. The company's information source is filings of trust deeds, which bear the name of the lender of record, at county courthouses.

Countrywide and others works with networks of brokers that in many cases close loans in their own names but receive concurrent funding from the mortgage banks. The mortgage banks count these as originations, but TRW Redi's numbers put them under the broker's name.

Thrifts, on the other hand, close virtually all their loans in their own names. And a spokesman for No. 2 North American said it follows the same procedure.

Banks, Thrifts Losing Ground

But even using TRW Redi's conservative standard, the figures confirm that the state's banks and thrifts are rapidly losing market share in originations to the mortgage banking companies.

Bank of America had an especially large drop in share, to 3.56% from 5.66%. A spokesman for the bank attributed the dip to the distractions of the Security Pacific merger, some staffing adjustments in wholesale lending, and a special promotion in 1992 that was not repeated this year. He said the company expected a return to normal in the second half.

As portfolio lenders, thrifts have been reluctant to originate the fixed-rate loans that borrowers currently prefer.

Pasadena-based Countrywide, the biggest mortgage bank, showed a drop in share in the state but this was largely because it began originating under an additional name, America's Wholesale Lender, this year. It has also been pushing geographic diversification and has been growing faster in California than elsewhere, according to Gerald L. Baker, managing director for loan production.

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