Insider Q&A: Mat Ishbia, CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The housing market has slowed sharply this year as mortgage rates surged to a 20-year high, reducing homebuyers’ purchasing power at a time when home prices have kept climbing.

The average rate on the benchmark 30-year home loan has been falling in recent weeks, but remains double what it was a year ago, according to mortgage buyer Freddie Mac. Meanwhile, mortgage applications have fallen roughly 53% from January through November, and sales of previously occupied homes are running at the slowest pre-pandemic pace in over a decade.

Michigan-based United Wholesale Mortgage, has grown to become the nation’s largest mortgage lender. CEO Mat Ishbia recently spoke to The Associated Press about how these trends are affecting the mortgage lender and his outlook for housing in 2023.

Q: How has the housing slowdown affected UWM?

A: Everyone is down in the mortgage business. We’re down a lot less than everyone else because we do so much purchase business. So refinances are off a cliff, but if your mortgage company was dependent on just refinances you’re really feeling the pain right now. Our business was not dependent on just refinances, thus we’re actually gaining market share. We’ve now taken over as the number one mortgage company in America. And we’re going to continue that in the fourth quarter and beyond.

Q: Isn’t your home purchase lending volume down significantly, given that U.S. existing home sales have fallen nearly every month this year?

A: We had our biggest purchase quarter in history last quarter, the third quarter. Finding a mortgage broker that can shop and get you a great deal on your mortgage is a huge difference right now than just going to a big retail bank, because you’re going to be paying a lot more. And so, yes, purchase volume in the market we think is down overall. I think it’ll be down slightly year-over-year. For UWM it’s not down. Through the first three quarters we were actually up.

Q: Have you seen a pickup in home loan applications that are rejected because the borrowers don’t qualify?

A: No, nothing substantial. We’ve been pretty steady with our guidelines, and we’re not really seeing a higher amount of rejections or a higher amount of approvals, it has basically been the same consistent number for a while now. Right now our minimum FICO score is 620. A lot of our competitors have dropped down to 580 to try to get more business.

Q: Do mortgage rates have to come down significantly to make homebuying more affordable to more Americans?

A: No, we can have a healthy economy at these rates. That’s not even a question. Will rates stay at these (levels)? The answer is no, they will come back down. Will they go back down to 2.5%? I don’t think they will be that low. What’s going to happen over the next 12 months is rates will probably be between 6% and 8%. Then rates will drop, and when they drop from 7% to 6%, or 6.5% to 5.5%, that will spur refinance activity. The housing market does not need rates at 2% and 3% in order to be a sustainable, healthy housing market. It’s been that way for a long time. The 2.5% and 3% was the anomaly, not this. This is more normal.

Q: Do you expect the housing market slowdown to continue in 2023?

A: I don’t think it’s a longer slowdown. The housing market will be strong again next year. Purchases will be strong. And then when rates drop, refis will get really strong in 2024-2025.

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