Real Estate

Spike In Refis Led Last Year’s Home-Lending Boom, New Data Shows

Lenders in 2020 refinanced more than twice as many loans as they reported the previous year, a dramatic feature of the pandemic lending boom.

The number of homeowners refinancing their mortgages more than doubled last year, driving a boom in home lending during the early months of the pandemic, new federal data shows.

Lenders in 2020 reported refinancing more than 8.7 million loans for single-family properties, up from 3.7 million the year before, according to data released Thursday by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council. 

A broad class of financial institutions is required to report this information each year in accordance with the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, which seeks details about applications for home loans. 

The dataset offers a detailed window into trillions of dollars worth of originated loans for home purchases, home-improvement projects, refinancing and other purposes. 

Lenders also reported a nearly 9 percent rise in the number of loans originated for home purchases, a modest increase compared with the flurry of activity on the refinance side.

In all, borrowers secured nearly 4.9 million home-purchase loans in 2020 totaling $1.4 trillion in value — up from 4.5 million purchase loans totaling $1.2 trillion the previous year.

Black and Latino households made particularly notable gains in acquiring loans to purchase single-family properties. 

Lenders approved 12 percent more of these loans for Latino applicants and 14 percent more for Black applicants in 2020 than they did the previous year. 

These groups still make up a smaller share of the loan pool than the population at large after facing decades of historical barriers and discrimination. These discrepancies have prompted the federal government to require more information from lenders to study the matter.

The number of purchase loans received by Asian American applicants grew by only 4 percent during the same period. White applicants of non-Latino ethnicity saw 8 percent growth in originated purchase loans from 2019 t0 2020.

The average purchase loan amount rose by more than $22,000, ending up at $294,038 for 2020. 

Fewer lenders were required to report in 2020 after the federal government loosened its requirements for some smaller financial institutions. Institutions with fewer than 100 closed-ended mortgage loans are no longer required to report.

Still, this data remains “the most comprehensive publicly available information” on the mortgage market, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council said in a news release.

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