Higher income borrowers took advantage of low rates, paperless process, during first year of pandemic, report finds

The first year of the coronavirus crisis led more higher-income borrowers to seek new mortgages or refinancings, and pushed more to consider “paperless” online mortgage borrowing, according to a report issued Tuesday by two federal agencies.

In their National Survey of Mortgage Originations (NSMO) for 2020 – the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic – the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) said the data gathered highlighted borrowers’ experience obtaining a mortgage at the outset of the impact of the pandemic.

The agencies said the highlights of the report included:

  • A higher share of borrowers reported their household income was $175,000 or higher in 2020 (29%) than in 2019 (20%), with a similarly higher share indicating that they owned stocks, bonds, or mutual funds in 2020 (53%) than in 2019 (43%). The report also showed that 76% of borrowers who refinanced were not at all concerned about qualifying for a mortgage in 2020, up from 66% in 2019.
  • A higher share of borrowers reported that a paperless online mortgage process was important to them in 2020 (48%) than in 2019 (42%). More borrowers reported that the mortgage closing did not occur as originally scheduled in 2020 (21%) than in 2019 (17%).
  • Borrowers were more aware of available mortgage interest rates, jumping to 69% in 2020, up from 55% in 2019. For those who took out a mortgage, 75% reported they were satisfied they received the lowest rate that they could qualify for, up from 67% the year before.

The NMSO, first conducted in in 2014, has been fielded quarterly by CFPB and FHFA to borrowers who had recently obtained mortgages. These surveys gather feedback on borrowers’ experiences during the process of getting a mortgage, their perceptions of the mortgage market, and their future expectations. Responses to these surveys are publicly published annually.

CFPB & FHFA news release announcing the publication of updated loan-level data for public use collected through the National Survey of Mortgage Originations