As I write this, I’m hearing in the background the news channels covering the presidential inauguration, which is striking to me. No, this will not be a political Deeper Thoughts. But it occurs to me that, regardless of political affiliation, we can all agree the election is finally over. For better or for worse, we’re moving on. The discussion will move away from ballots, norms and projections and back toward the typical back-and-forth of policy and debate.
That leads me to realize that, in many ways, 2020 itself is finally ending. No, not the calendar year, but this entire, surreal exercise in the suspension of disbelief. The pandemic certainly isn’t over, but the arrival of a vaccine means we can see some kind of end in sight. It certainly feels like we’re entering some kind of final stage—even if it does take another 6 – 10 months.
Hell, I haven’t even heard anything about “murder hornets” for a few months.
2020 was easily the strangest year I can recall. I’m betting it was roughly the same for you.
Accordingly, I’m sensing something similar for the mortgage industry. Yes, I think there’s still plenty of refinance business still to be had. And yes, I really do believe there’s plenty of opportunity out there in the purchase market. I think there is some merit to the belief that 2021 will be a year when non-QM volume really does pick up.
But what I’m sensing overall is that the mortgage industry knows it’s time to double-down on its efforts and work twice as hard. Monday morning is here. Vacation (or sick leave) is over. It’s time to get back to work.
I’m certainly not saying 2020 was some kind of holiday. Far from it. And I’m not saying we didn’t work hard in 2020. We spent long hours processing mountains of refinance applications, and all of the support work that falls in behind that. But the increasing M&A activity; the talk of a more active federal regulator and even the possibility of stabilizing or rising interest rates has, by now, gotten everyone’s attention. If you still think we’re in for another $2 trillion or so of pure refinance business in 2021, you’re in the minority by now. The weirdness of 2020 is about over.
So let’s make some hay while the sun is shining. There’s still some very real volume in the pipelines. And when the market finally turns, we’ll be ready. Just as we always have, we’ll grumble a bit about margins as we cycle back to the costlier-to-produce purchase mortgage. Just as we always have, we’ll smirk a little about having to fight a little harder for the next sale. But we’ll do it. We always have.
We’ll also grind a little harder to make those little improvements to the mortgage process. We’ll work to shave an hour or two off here or there with the small innovations that don’t always get the headlines. We’ll find new ways to bring in new business more efficiently. We’ll come across new products and markets, albeit, in small ways. You see, although we often talk about how “conservative” the mortgage industry is, we’re still profit-driven. Which means we’re always looking for the little improvements and incorporating them into the process when we find them. We haven’t simply stood still for 50 years. For all the jokes and comments, the process is a lot better than it used to be. It’s just that it could be even better.
But that’s ok. The fever dream that was 2020 in so many ways is finally ending, we know what we have to do. And as always, we’ll just get out there and do it.
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