Industry News

Slower home loan market worsens fraud

Competition in tighter market weakens broker diligence

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After years of red-hot housing sales and refinancings, a cooling market this year is likely to uncover some problems, like a rocky seabed revealed by the ebbing tide. There is growing concern, in particular, that a glut of mortgage brokers chasing diminished business will pressure them to "look the other way" in generating leads and underwriting loans. Brokers now originate nearly two-thirds of all residential mortgages nationwide. Originations are projected to be 20 percent lower this year, yet the past five high-production years have swelled the ranks of operating brokerages to more than 53,000, according to an industry firm that counts them. By next year, it estimates that number will be halved. Until then, though, mortgage business practitioners worry that competition for receding business is creating a natural pressure on brokers to relax due diligence. "Brokers have more financial incentive not to examine deeply all of the applicants and deal characteristics that they probably ...