While mortgage interest rates at historic lows have driven a months-long refinancing boom that continues amid the coronavirus crisisthat does not mean purchase activity has dropped off.  

And with Massachusetts still lacking the inventory needed to meet buyer demandloan originators have had to get creative in how they work with prospective homeowners. 

“I probably wrote more preapprovals in 2019 than I ever had in my 22-year career, said William Murphy, Auburn branch manager for Fairway Independent Mortgage. “What that means is there was still a shortage  we had the buyers, just not enough inventory.” 

While the coronavirus pandemic has created uncertainty for the 2020 residential mortgage market, top loan originators have seen some of 2019s strong purchase activity carry over this year. 

Creative Strategies Needed 

The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman, has compiled from its proprietary loan originators module the top loan originators of calendar year 2019. The originators are ranked by number of loans, loan volume statewide, by region and by the institution with which they are most closely affiliated. 

Loan originators across the state processed $67.77 billion in residential mortgages in 2019, up from $47.7 billion in 2018. Purchase activity statewide was $30.27 billion last year compared to $28.64 billion in 2018. Refinancing activity almost doubled from $19 billion in 2018 to $37.5 billion in 2019. 

Who were the top loan originators in your region in 2019? See the complete listings.

Murphy was the top loan originator among mortgage companies in Central Massachusetts, where first-time homebuyers made up the biggest segment of his purchase activity last year. Starter homes in the area were listed between $150,000 and $300,000 and often sold for more than the asking price, Murphy saidHe added that buyers would put in offers on multiple houses and lose out. 

Developments in the Worcester area have made the region popular with people who work in Boston but want more affordable housing, Murphy said, adding that people working from home have also sought homes in Central Massachusetts. 

“I probably wrote more preapprovals in 2019 than I ever had in my 22-year career. What that means is there was still a shortage – we had the buyers, just not enough inventory.”
— William Murphy, Auburn branch manager, Fairway Independent Mortgage.  

Murphy said he put together different strategies to help clients get their offers accepted, including quick closings, putting more money down and verifying underwriting and the legitimacy of preapprovals. 

The housing industry could have a key role in helping the recovery from the pandemic’s economic repercussions, Murphy said. Refinancing has helped people lower their debt and monthly paymentshe said, and though listings have been down during the pandemic, sellers have still received multiple offers on homes, including from preapproved buyers. 

“As long as people can get their jobs back, I believe the housing market will be one of the crutches to get us out of the recession that were in,” Murphy said.  

Even the economic dislocation of the coronavirus pandemic could not slow down the boom in refinances loan originators saw dominate their business in 2019.

A Rush of Refis 

Lindsay Barron LaBonte with HarborOne Mortgage in Northampton has seen refinancing applications increase from around 25 percent of total volume to close to 50 percentBut the refinancing has only increased her volume rather than lowering her purchase activity, said LaBontethe top loan originator among mortgage companies in Western Massachusetts. 

The area around Hampshire County has colleges – including UMass Amherst, Mount Holyoke and Smith College – and hospitals that bring a mix of people to the area, LaBonte said. Like Greater Boston, the Pioneer Valley has an inventory shortage, LaBonte added, with the median home price there up 4 percent in 2019.  

Homebuyers included people moving from Boston and New York and others who were upsizing, downsizing and even making lateral moves. LaBonte said 80 percent of her purchase activity consists of conventional loans rather than the government loans used by many first-time homebuyers. 

LaBonte said the coronavirus pandemic has already brought some of her clients to the area, which has both a rural and a city feel. Listings were down for a few weeks, she said, but they have lately increased. 

The unknown when it comes to a major financial market impact can always be a little bit scary, but thats all the more reason that keeping close relations with the community and referral partners … has really helped and allowed us to emerge as a leader in determining how the real estate market has continued and helping people get through it,” LaBonte said. 

Pandemic Demands Caution 

Diane McLauglin

As the pandemic continues to drag on the state’s economy, Ryan Morgan with Mortgage Corp. East in Rockland and the top loan mortgage company originator in Southeastern Massachusetts said real estate agents have been key to vetting prospective home buyers during the crisis to make sure they meet lending standards. With the longstanding seller’s market, Morgan said, buyers have been capitalizing on opportunities in recent weeks to find some value or face less competition. 

Cape Cod FivePatricia LotaneSoutheastern Massachusetts top bank loan originator, said low rates have been driving purchase activity on Cape Cod for second homes. First-time homebuyers have also been in the market, Lotane said, as well as year-round residents taking advantage of low rates and the competitive market to sell and trade up. 

 Even now, though, the pandemic isn’t keeping some buyers away. 

“COVID is not stopping people from moving forward with their dream purchase,” Lotane said. “If anything, people are more excited it seems because they’re looking forward to getting out of their house and getting down on the Cape or moving to a new home here on the Cape.” 

Loan Originators Got Creative in Hot Market

by Diane McLaughlin time to read: 4 min