Independent mortgage bankers made an average profit of $902 per loan in the third quarter, down 33% from the previous quarter, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

"These are still healthy margins," said Marina Walsh, the trade group's associate vice president of industry analysis. But she noted that 18% of the reporting mortgage companies posted losses in the third quarter, up from 4% in the second quarter.

The decline in third-quarter profitability reflects a 34% drop in total loan volumes, as well as in refinancing volumes.

The 306 reporting companies originated on average $189.8 million in home loans, down from $281 million in the second quarter.

Refinancings accounted for 44% of originations in the third quarter, versus 62.3% in the previous quarter.

Despite the drop in volume, the average "pull-through" rate of turning loan applications into closings was 72% in the third quarter, down only 1 percentage point from the second quarter.

"The good news is we are not back to the third quarter of 2008," when 30% of the companies reported losses, Walsh said.

A year ago, mortgage companies made only $332 per loan.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.