Fourth-quarter 2021 posts largest yearly decline in originations since 2018

The fourth quarter of 2021 saw 3.27 million residential mortgage originations nationwide, down 13.5% from fourth-quarter 2020, according to Attom Data Solutions.

The annual dip is the largest such decrease for the U.S. mortgage market since Q4 2018, while the total number of mortgage issuances fell for the third straight quarter. Originations were down 10.7% compared to Q3 2021 with quarterly declines in purchase, refinance and home equity lending. On a year-over-year basis, the purchase loan category was the only one that increased in comparison to Q4 2020.

In terms of dollar amount, $1.06 trillion in mortgages were issued in Q4 2021, down 6.5% yearly and 9% quarterly. Each of these dollar-volume decreases were the largest since early 2019.

“The receding volume of business for the residential mortgage industry is now showing up across all major categories of loans and appears to be more than just a temporary slide,” said Todd Teta, chief product officer for Attom Data. “The ebbing wave of refinance loans that started in early 2021 has fully spread to home purchase and home equity lending.

“No doubt, total lending levels are still up over normal amounts over the past decade. And the drop-off in purchase loans seems to flow from a lack of housing supply rather than the housing-market boom ending. But declining business for lenders remains a key point to watch in assessing the state of the market, especially with interest rates likely to climb this year.”

Refinance originations were down 22.7% on a yearly basis and down 10.8% from the prior quarter. Mirroring the market as a whole, the number of refinance mortgages was down for a third quarter in a row, something that hadn’t happened since late 2018 and early 2019. In terms of dollar volume, refinances were down 17.5% year over year and 9% quarter over quarter.

Still, refi activity comprised at least half of all loans in three quarters of all metros with sufficient data for Attom to evaluate. This share held steady from the prior quarter, although it’s down from 91% as of Q4 2020.


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