The refinancing boom helped independent mortgage lenders boost profits from $148 per loan at the tail end of last year to $1,088 per loan in the first three months of 2009, the Mortgage Bankers Association said.

Refinancings made up 66 percent of mortgage originations during the first quarter, compared with 42 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to an MBA report measuring the performance of independent mortgage bankers and subsidiaries of banks, thrifts and hedge funds.

The refinancing boom helped independent mortgage lenders boost profits from $148 per loan at the tail end of last year to $1,088 per loan in the first three months of 2009, the Mortgage Bankers Association said.

Refinancings made up 66 percent of mortgage originations during the first quarter, compared with 42 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to an MBA report measuring the performance of independent mortgage bankers and subsidiaries of banks, thrifts and hedge funds.

The average production volume for each firm was $213.9 million, up from $125.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2008. That helped the average loan originator boost production from 5.3 loans per month to 10.4 loans per month, and drive the cost of originating a loan down from $2,324 to $1,725, the MBA said.

"It is clear the refinance boom in the first quarter of 2009 contributed greatly to an increase in overall production volumes, allowing production operating expenses per loan to finally drop," said Marina Walsh, MBA’s associate vice president of industry analysis, in a statement.

The report noted that 85 percent of the firms studied posted pretax net profits in the first quarter, up from 53 percent in the final three months of 2008.

Loan servicing remained a break-even proposition for independent mortgage companies and subsidiaries, with net losses of $1 per loan serviced during the first quarter.

Another report from the American Land Title Association shows the effects of the refinancing boom and rising home sales extended into the second quarter for title insurers, allowing the industry as a whole to turn a profit despite 13 consecutive quarters of year-over-year premium declines (see story).

A recent study by First American CoreLogic estimated that consumers who refinanced in the first half of the year will reap annual savings of $2.3 billion, thanks to lower interest rates driven largely by the Federal Reserve’s purchases of mortgage-backed securities (see story).

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