Home purchase loans jumped to a 57 percent share of all mortgage originations in February, up from 53 percent in January.  Data from the latest Ellie Mae Origination Insight Report indicate while this share is up by 5 percentage points from the previous February, it remains well below the recent high for purchase mortgages of 65 percent in June 2016.

Ellie Mae says closing times were way down in February, dropping from 51 days in January to 46 days for all loans.  Refinances took an average of 47 days compared to 53 and purchase loans fell to 45 from 48 days.

Conventional loans had a 63 percent share of the market, compared to 66 percent in January.  FHA increased its share by 2 percentage points and VA by 1 point to 23 percent and 10 percent respectively. 

FICO scores for closed loans eased slightly, down from 722 in January to 720.  The average FICO score was 11 points lower than last year's high reached in August and September but was up one point from the beginning of 2016.  Ellie Mae said 67 percent of all closed loans, 70 percent of purchase mortgages, and 64 percent of refinance borrowers had scores of 700 or more.

Closing rates for all loans decreased from 72.2 percent in January to 70.6 percent.  The rate for purchases decreased from 76.8 percent to 75.9 percent and for refinancing from 67.9 percent to 65.4 percent. Ellie Mae computes closing rates on a sampling of loan applications initiated 90 days earlier, in this case November 2016.

"The purchase market led the way in February, representing 57 percent of total closed loans," said Jonathan Corr, president and CEO of Ellie Mae. "Along with the growing purchase market, we're seeing the time to close all loans decrease and FICO scores decline, trends that we will continue to watch in the coming months."

The Origination Insight Report mines its application data from a sample of approximately 75 percent of all mortgage applications that were initiated on its mortgage management system.  The company considers its report to be a strong proxy of the underwriting standards employed by lenders across the country.