Analysis Featured

The Return of Non-Prime Mortgage Loans


Altisource was launched in 1999 and has its headquarters in Luxembourg. In 2009, it was listed under the ticker (NASDAQ: ASPS) it was a spinoff from Ocwen Financial Corp (NASDAQ: OCN); a mortgage loan servicing and asset management company and today its equity market cap stands at just under $500 million.

Chart below shows ASPS performance for the last two years:

Source: Yahoo! Finance

The company has over 10,000 employees on its payroll and since its inception has acquired Investability, RentRange LLC, CastleLine, and Equator. It offers plethora of products ranging from real estate and mortgage portfolio management, asset recovery, and customer relationship management to securitization, loan origination, insurance etc. It is a one-stop shop and serves over 250 lenders.

Justin Vedder, vice president of origination solutions at Altisource, has a strong background in operations, strategic sales and sales management. Prior to this, he held high profile positions in various organizations like CastleLine Holdings, The Prieston Group to name a few. Vedder shared his thoughts with Lending-Times on Altisource and the current tailwinds in the non-prime mortgage ecosystem.

Return of High-Risk Mortgage

Non-prime mortgage securities were once a popular choice among lenders. It offered attractive returns but it all changed when housing market came crashing down in 2008. But in the last year or so, the high-risk mortgage has made a return and the sector is slated to originate about $100 billion this year, though he doesn’t expect the market to reach the high it was had at $2.5 trillion mortgage market. With an increase in lending volume as well as interest rates, higher yields are expected in the coming future and favorable regulatory environment is another reason why investors are again cautiously optimistic about the future prospects of the industry.

Post-2008, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) came hard on faulty loans and companies who falsified the loan documents. Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act piled on additional mortgage industry regulations to protect consumers. Regulation Z of the Federal Truth in Lending Act provides the backbone of mortgage industry regulations, covering topics such as mortgage disclosures, servicing and appraisal requirements.

Prior to 2008, person earning $30,000 a year with a “D” credit rating, not sustainable income and with no down payment could buy a home, the underwriting process was that easy but it all changed after the 2008 financial crisis. Now, the borrower should atleast have a “B” credit rating, regular sustainable income with proofs, two year job history and 20% down payment and numerous amount of paperwork including tax returns, pay stubs, banks statements, W-2 and much more. With the advent of fintech companies, underwriting has become much more automated and companies are using various technologies like AI to make sure borrowers are genuine. And because of these changes, delinquency rate for 90 days or more including loans foreclosure was 2.2 percent in February 2017. All these changes have made the whole lending ecosystem much more secure than before.

Post-2008, approval rates have gone down significantly as lenders are much more circumspect. Therefore customers with low fico score, self-employed, and retired find it difficult to get loans even though they might have lots of savings and investments. Self employed has always find it tough when it comes to mortgages because they write off far more than the W-2 employees, hence they find it difficult to show the required proof of income through tax returns. Hence, high percentage of self-income individuals, even though they have required prerequisite to qualify for mortgages, struggle to get loans. Because the underwriting and loan processing is more comprehensive than before, the non-prime mortgage sector has the opportunity to tap into the self-employed category.

Requirements and Risk level

Disclosures required from applicants are much more wide-ranging and LTV is now decided by a multi-factor approach to ensure the ability to pay. Recently CFPB introduced “Quality Mortgage” Rule; lenders will use this rule as underwriting standards. Some of its key features are:

  • A borrower may not have a debt-to-income ratio of greater than 43 percent,
  • Fees and points may not exceed 3 percent of the loan amount,
  • Lenders must verify a borrower’s income
  • No mortgages greater than thirty years and no interest only or negative amortization loans.

In 2014, CFPB issued stricter rules for lenders to decide whether the borrower is qualified or not for the mortgages. The “ability to repay” rule, requires the lender to consider more than just the initial interest rate in determining whether the prospective borrower can pay off the loan or not. This rule will make it difficult for the borrowers to qualify for the ARM (Adjustable-rate Mortgage), since lenders will be using higher rates than initial rate available on the loan.

All these additional requirements, along with careful evaluation of collateral, validation of project, income and bank statements, has been the reason why risk level on sub-prime mortgages has gone down considerably and why it is once again becoming popular.

A Sampling of Altisource Products

  • Trelix – Post-2008 era has been tough for the mortgage industry in terms of regulations, and it has become hard to keep track of all regulatory changes and whether every loan is as per regulatory standards or not. Also lack of trained staff has resulted in a high manufacturing cost per loan. Altisource’s Trelix offers “end-to-end licensed underwriting and loan processing services”. This gives a competitive edge to its clients as it manages risk while lowering the cost. Trelix offers host of customized services- processing, underwriting, quality control, loan due diligence etc.
  • CastleLine Insurance Services – This robust risk management and insurance solution is specifically designed for the mortgage banking industry. It helps the clients to safeguard against the losses arising from loan manufacturing defects, underwriting errors, misrepresentations, and borrower, seller, and employee fraud. This is a game-changer as it helps in increasing mortgage quality and reduces funding costs.

Altisource also has other products and services for mortgage bankers, brokers, marketplace lenders, and real estate investors.

Company and Industry Outlook

Over the years, Altisource has carved its niche in a highly competitive mortgage industry and has a strong network of on-boarded lenders. The company as a whole has been flourishing, but its underwriting business has been on the rise and so far has done over $15 million in volume, and its other key business CastleLine insurance, has insured over $16 billion worth of loans.

In 2016, Altisoure’s total service revenues were $942.6 million. In Q3 2017, total service revenues reached $224.3 million.

The industry will continue to grow, but it is expected to evolve over a period of time in terms of process automation. The practice of individually reviewing each loan application is cumbersome and error-prone; therefore by leveraging other credit enhancers like insurance and third party guarantee, the industry can accelerate the process and will also provide a much-needed safety net to the mortgage providers.

Future Plans

The company wants to create an enabling environment so that the mortgage providers can go deep and tap into the non-prime lenders market. Right now the trading environment in the secondary market is non-formal as a lot of work is done using nonpublic information or via emails and the company is on track to change the whole landscape of the sub-prime mortgage industry with the help of its next-generation product line and expertise.


Written by Heena Dhir.


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