In reaction to stronger home sales and less cash in the housing market, the Mortgage Bankers Association is predicting far higher home purchase mortgage volume this year than it did just one month ago.
Purchase loan volume is now expected to rise to $801 billion in 2015, an upward revision from the $730 billion forecast last month and the $638 billion originated in 2014.
So-called pull-through rates, the pace at which applications are actually approved and become loans, have increased for a confluence of reasons, economists Lynn Fisher, Mike Fratantoni and Joel Kan wrote in the report out Wednesday. They include more lenient underwriting practices from lenders, smaller overall loan sizes and fewer buyers using all-cash to purchase homes.
Mortgage purchase application volume has been slipping of late, as interest rates moved higher. Volume is down nearly 5 percent from four weeks ago, but it is still 18 percent higher than a year ago.
The average loan size on purchase applications has been shrinking steadily, indicating more first-time homebuyers may be coming back to the market. The Realtors, however, reported just 30 percent of June sales were from first-time buyers, well below the historical norm of 40 percent or higher.
The bankers association is also pointing to a slightly looser grip on underwriting.
"More sales are being financed, and more applications are being approved. And we expect that this trend will continue into 2016 and beyond, as the broader economy and job market continue to improve," the association economists said.
Average FICO credit scores are still abnormally high, but some lenders are starting to bring new products, like interest-only loans back to the market. They had been as much as 10 percent of new mortgages in 2005 but are now barely 0.3 percent of new loans.
Freddie Mac recently loosened restrictions in several areas of its mortgage underwriting, including how it factors student loan debt into the debt-to-income calculation.
"That's a big deal, given that the reason often cited for millennials not buying in bigger numbers is student loan debt, so if less of those payments have to be counted against them, then more millennials will qualify to purchase a home," said Craig Strent, CEO of Maryland-based Apex Home Loans.