According to Gallup's 2013 annual Economy and Personal Finance survey, the average retirement age has crept up by four years over the past two decades, "from 57 in 1991 to the current 61. Because most of the uptick came before the 2008 recession, this shift may reflect more than just a changing economy. It may also indicate changing norms about the value of work, the composition of the workforce, the decrease in jobs with mandatory retirement ages, and other factors." And let's not forget numerous people who failed to diversify their retirement funds, and losing it all as their company's value sank. The survey continues to substantiate what a lot of people already believe, that we are working longer in our lifetime compared to past generations. For homeowners, age 60+ (maybe still in the workforce?) there appears to be some good news. According to the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA), "Americans 62 years old and older now have more equity in their homes than at any time since mid-2008...the third quarter ('13) was the sixth consecutive quarter in which the index has risen, but the $3.46 trillion estimated aggregate value of home equity owned by seniors eligible for reverse mortgages remains 14% below its peak level of $4.0 trillion in Q4 2006."

"The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires." It seems that some brokers need some teaching, of some kind, about the mini-correspondent relationship. Brokers continue to express interest in the "mini-corr" model, and some wholesale lenders are only too happy to move brokers into this hybrid channel. As many recall, it gained in popularity when the 3% cap on points and fees began to take shape. Brokers are warned, however, to do their homework. I am hearing reports that certain investors are not telling the truth to the new mini-correspondent partners. In the past brokers have seen wholesalers make underwriting mistakes, for example, and they absorbed the loss, but have now shifted the financial reps & warrants to the lender. In fact, underwriting is a sore spot with many, especially when some wholesale shops do not put their underwriting guarantee policies in writing.

A delegated correspondent should fully know their responsibility should an early payment default occur, as well as other problems that typically arise. Many brokers, now mini-correspondent clients, are non-delegated and have never underwritten a loan, preferring to pay the wholesaler to do it. But then if a mistake is made in underwriting, is the lender liable? One response letter that I saw noted that the agreement does not address the quality of the wholesaler's underwriting practices and gives no relief to the correspondent for any underwriting issues. Sellers need to be careful about the differentiation between delegated and non-delegated reps & warrants in the relationship - be careful out there!

Here's an interesting petition - one focused on the HARP. Any thoughts of a grandiose expansion have been pretty much squelched, and the smart money is thinking that something might be done in the lower balance segment, perhaps closing cost credits and reduced LLPAs. But hope springs eternal, and Make Harp3 Happen is advocating the expansion of the Home Affordable Refinance Program. The actual petition simply exists to "remind policy makers that underwater homeowners are still here and growing impatient after two years of waiting for HARP 3.0." Folks can view the petition here and here is a link to the press release about the petition.

Before I forget, yesterday the commentary discussed training for the upcoming UST March 31 deadline. ("LOs that were licensed prior to April 1, 2013 need to pass or register for the exam by that date if they wish to originate in a participating States after April 1, 2014...") Per Barbara Werth, there was an occasional blip in the website which is now corrected. Anyone who tried but did not complete filling out the information should give it another shot for the calls scheduled for March 19th and 26th from 1-2:30 CST.  The cost of the conference call is $75 which includes a study guide and unlimited sample tests for the exam.  Anyone interested can go to Test to register. If you go to the link again you will receive $10.00 off for any orders. You can also email Barb at with questions.

Mortgage originations plummeted at all but one of the nation's four biggest banks in 2013. Bank of America bucked the trend and said that its mortgage volume increased 12.9% over the previous year. In fact, volumes were certainly hit or miss. At a recent session sponsored by the Colorado Mortgage Lenders Association (one of the industry's effective regional associations), the STRATMOR Group presented its findings from a mini-survey conducted especially for this occasion. Participating lenders included CMLA members plus a sampling of other midsize originators from across the industry. Participants submitted a handful of performance metrics for the periods ending June 30/September 30/December 31 of 2013 and provided a projection of their expected results for the 1st Quarter of 2014. Since the first half of 2013 was largely an extension of 2012, STRATMOR's survey objective was to measure the quarterly change in lender performance after mortgage rates began increasing in the late spring."

STRATMOR's survey findings were surprising in two respects. The average decline in production volume for the 2nd half of 2013 was only 11%, considerably less than what industry gossip had led us to expect. Secondly, lender staffing levels (including sales, fulfillment and total FTE's) remained virtually flat during the last half of 2013. Where was the impact of all those staffing layoffs which lenders reported to have undertaken? As anticipated, net income margins declined by about 45% during this period, due mostly to an increase in expenses rather than a fall-off in revenues. Net Income margins for the full year 2013 averaged just north of 50 bps which was pretty much in line with the period from 2009 through 2011. Staff productivity was uniformly down for most all lenders. Purchase business averaged about 70% of total production, up 15 percentage points during the 2nd half of 2013.

Perhaps the bigger story is the grim outlook for the 1Q 2014 from this collection of lenders. Production volume is forecast to be down 30% from the 4th Quarter of 2013: about 48% of the participating lenders expect to breakeven or lose money for the Quarter. Surveys focus on averages and there were some notable exceptions where certain lenders predict decent performance during the 1st Quarter. Smaller lenders (those with volumes less than $1.5 billion) were more optimistic than their larger peers. Independent mortgage bankers anticipate better results than their bank-owned counterparts. (If you are interested in learning more about the findings and conclusions from this mini-survey, you may reach out to

This fellow Lawsky is out to make a name for himself. I am not an attorney, but I am sure he's figured out that he can probe whichever non-regulated/non-bank he'd like even though he is a "banking regulator in New York". With Ocwen on hold, now he's turned his department's gaze toward Nationstar. Meanwhile, the industry wonders which non-bank servicer will be next, the servicing brokers are concerned (although it is rumored that they are still receiving numerous bids on servicing pools from regional banks), and if this impacts the market for servicing it will be the borrowers that suffer. Let's hope that the complaints that warranted the probing don't consist of, "They made me send in my payments."

If you're near Alpharetta, Georgia, on Friday, Plaza Home Mortgage is presenting a 3-hour seminar on Realtor relationships. (And who wouldn't want to have a relationship with a Realtor?) "This course will cover 5 key areas to a successful sales strategy: prospecting, appointment setting techniques, controlling the sales call, handling different Realtor personality types, and implementing a proven successful follow up plan. Topics include "The quick and easy way to get the Realtor at ease", "Simple techniques to bond with Realtors", and "The best and worst times of day to talk to Realtors." The presenter is Dennis Black, who has trained over 95,000 people on the keys to building relationships and making more money in a challenging mortgage environment. You can visit but there are two sessions on Friday, March 7 (Atlanta Marriott Alpharetta, 5750 Windward Parkway): 8:30 am - 11:30 AM or 1:30-4:30 PM. Register here for the morning session or here for the afternoon.

The 31st Annual Regional Conference of Mortgage Bankers Associations, hosted by the Mortgage Bankers Association of New Jersey, will be held in Atlantic City, NJ from March 9-13th.  Speakers will address CFPB enforcement, establishing compliance management systems, HMDA data and Fair lending, social media marketing, LO comp, mini-correspondent platforms, QRM, and third-party vendors as they have been affected by the new rules.  Register here.

This year's American Bankers Association Real Estate Conference will take place in Charleston, SC from April 6-8th and will focus on CFPB rules and the subsequent challenges to businesses.  Key topics include safe and profitable non-QM lending, Fair Lending standards in a changing regulatory environment, CRE Stress Testing, and more. 

The Wisconsin Mortgage Bankers Association is still accepting sponsorship registration for its April 2nd conference in Pewaukee, MI.  Opportunities range from having your company's name on attendee lanyards to having a reserved table with your company's logo and eight full conference registrations.  

After some volatility Monday and Tuesday, rates are back to treading water - at least until tomorrow's unemployment data. Sure, there is talk about the extreme weather that parts of the nation have seen, and the Russia/Ukraine conflict, but overall it is pretty quiet. In fact, the big news last night possibly was the Bank of England leaving rates unchanged.

We'll have more news today here in the United States. We will have Initial Jobless Claims (expected lower to 338k from 348k), final Q4 Productivity (+2.6 versus +3.2 last), and final Q4 Unit Labor Costs (-0.9 from -1.6). At 10AM is Factory Orders for January, and then the Treasury's announcement of next week's 3-, 10-, and 30-year notes & bonds (estimated at $64 billion). Didn't we just have one of these auctions? The U.S. 10-yr. yield closed Wednesday at 2.70%; in the early going we're at 2.72% and agency MBS prices are worse a shade.