Record home prices in recent years have pushed tappable home equity to new heights, increasing the demand for one specific product: cash-out refis.
Black Knight data shows that lenders originated $1.2 trillion in cash-out refis in 2021, up 20% compared to the prior year, the highest volume since 2005. Cash-out refis went from 36% to more than 60% of all refis from the beginning of 2021 to the fourth quarter.
In 2021, homeowners tapped $275 billion in equity. In the fourth quarter, more than 1 million homeowners tapped $80 billion. Despite the withdrawal, tappable equity available to homeowners with a mortgage grew by $446 billion in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve been discussing this shift to an equity-centric market for some time, and our Optimal Blue rate lock data showed that cash-out activity continued to increase in January of this year as well,” Ben Graboske, data and analytics president at Black Knight, said in a statement.
He added: “Now for the bad news: retention of cash-out refinance borrowers has been notoriously difficult.” Retention is still eight percentage points lower in cash-out than rate/term refis.
The data vendor noted the underlying risk of cash-out refis remains low, with average credit scores above 740. In addition, soaring home values resulted in much lower post-withdrawal loan-to-value (LTV) ratios than during the Great Recession, when LTVs were more than ten percentage points higher.
Overall, originations reached $4.4 trillion in 2021, up from $4.3 trillion in the previous year to post a record volume. Refinances decreased 34% last year, to $2.7 trillion — rate/term refis volumes declined even more, 60% compared to 2020. Lenders originated a record $ 1.7 trillion in purchases last year.
Graboske noted that entering 2021, the consensus opinion was that mortgage originations would likely be 20-25% lower than 2020’s record-breaking levels. Black Knight’s suggestion was a 7% decline. In the end, originations outpaced the prior record.