Independent mortgage bankers made $890 on each single-family loan they originated and sold in the fourth quarter, down slightly from a $902 per loan profit in the previous quarter, according to a Mortgage Bankers Association quarterly report.

"Production profits remained favorable in the fourth quarter because of strong servicing rights valuations and secondary market gains," said Marina Walsh, MBA associate vice president of industry analysis. She warned, however, that mortgage repurchase demands by investors "may weaken profitability in upcoming quarters."

The MBA report shows that 76% of the 300 firms surveyed posted pre-tax profits in the fourth quarter, compared to 82% in the previous quarter. It has been a wild ride during the financial crisis for independents.

While the government was bailing out banks and Wall Street in the fourth quarter of 2008, small mortgage bankers made only $289 per loan. But they hit the jackpot when the Federal Reserve started buying mortgage-backed securities. In the first quarter of 2009, the independents pocketed $1,088 per loan.

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