This is the eighth of 10 articles taking an updated look at our most widely read stories of the year. The first seven can be found here:Europe, Cat Bonds, Marketplace, Risk Sharing, FFELP, Solar, CMBS.
Reimbursement rights to the money that mortgage servicers advance bondholders once held promise as an alternative form of exposure to housing. Servicing mortgages, especially nonperforming ones, is a capital intensive business; it can months, and sometimes years, to get repaid for advancing interest and principal payments on delinquent loans. Unlike the banks that traditionally dominated this business could rely on deposits for cheap funding, new players need access to the capital markets.
But securitization of these IOUs came to a halt in April 2014, when Standard & Poor’s embarked a six-month recalibration of its criteria for the asset class. The revised ratings criteria were published just over a year ago, yet only a handful of servicers have tapped the market.
Ocwen Financial, one of the biggest issuers, had been using these deals to fund its purchases of servicing rights from banks. But it is now restricted from making additional acquisitions as part of last year’s settlement with regulators in New York and California.
So the majority of the deals that came to market in 2015 refinanced portions of the often-unrated variable funding note commitments that were extended by bank lenders during the S&P moratorium.
In September, Ocwen refinanced a $1.8 billion facility used to fund its advances to holders of private-label mortgage bonds. The new, smaller facility consists of $300 million of term notes and up to $900 million of variable funding notes.
And in August, New Residential Investment Corp. completed a $1.5 billion deal that refinanced two facilities acquired with its purchase of Home Loan Servicing Solutions from Ocwen.
Another, still small, source of volume are deals backed by repayments rights to advances on agency mortgages. While servicing agency mortgages requires less capital than servicing private label mortgages, tapping the securitization market with the type of asset to has become easier under S&P’s revised criteria. In October, Ditech Financial, a unit of Walter Investment Management Corp., issued $300 million in bonds backed by repayment rights to advances on Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae mortgages, and in June Ocwen refinanced a $450 million facility backed exclusively by repayments rights to advances on Freddie Mac mortgages. Nationstar is the only other issuer to securitize IOUs on agency mortgages, and that was in January 2013.
Both types of deals, refinancing of existing deals backed by repayment rights associated with private-label RMBS and those associated with agency mortgage backeds, are expected to contribute to volumes into 2016.
But banks still hold the majority of the mortgage servicing assets in the country. As of the end of 2014, non-banks serviced just 14% of the $10 trillion outstanding principal, according to data from Mortgage Bankers Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers. That was up from 6% at the end of 2011-12.
Once Ocwen gets the all-clear from regulators, it plans to partner with New Residential Investment Corp., a real estate investment trust, to help finance advances associated with any future mortgage servicing rights that it acquires. This is similar to the arrangement that Ocwen had with HLSS before it sold that business to New Residential.
In the meantime, the company is looking to other areas of growth, including origination of non-conforming mortgages, financing for single-family rental homes, and inventory financing for used car dealerships.