Mortgage bankers expect better business this year than last, according to a survey.

Some 68.3% of the respondents said they would originate more loans than last year. Five percent said they were looking at a decline, and 26.7% foresaw no change.

But most say the economy is in trouble.

The survey, conducted in the first quarter by Holm Publications, invited 100 lenders at large and small mortgage companies to consider how their industry and the economy would perform this year.

The respondents were generally upbeat, believing that growth prospects were solid, said Jon Holm, president of the Milwaukee-based newsletter publisher.

"They're looking forward to a decent year," Mr. Holm said.

Most of the mortgage bankers - 65% - said refinancings would make up 30% to 50% of their pipeline during the year. Of the other respondents, half said the refinancing rate could go as low as 15% half that it could run as high as 75%.

Mortgage bankers have watched interest rates creep up this year, reaching 8.08% for the week ended May 17. Asked to consider where the 30- year fixed rate would be at midyear, 80.6% of respondents to the survey said between 7% and 8%. Only 17.7% said rates would top 8%, and 1.7% said they would be below 7%.

Looking at the end of the year, 62.9% of the mortgage bankers said 30- year fixed rates would range between 7% and 8%, 25.8% saw rates topping 8%, and just 1.7% expected a dip below 7%.

The mortgage bankers also expressed concerns about the economy. According to 22.5%, the nation is already in a recession. Fully 40.3% percent predicted one for early next year, and 25.8% for late 1997.

Whenever the next the recession comes, 46.8% of the respondents said they expect it to be of average length and severity; 33.9% said it would be mild, and 19.3% said it would be tough.

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