New Residential Investment Corp. isn’t the only real estate investment trust looking to snap up mortgage servicing rights as banks exit this capital-intensive business. Two Harbors Investment Corp. has also been growing its MSR portfolio.
Two Harbors, which reported fourth-quarter earnings late Monday, finished the year with $693.8 billion of MSRs, or 4.4% of its portfolio. That was up from $455.6 billion, or 2.7% of the portfolio, at the end of September.
Two Harbors sees them as a hedge for its other holdings. Spreads on securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac widened in the fourth quarter. But rising interest rates increased the value of MSRs because refinancing activity slows, leaving the loans outstanding, and in need of servicing, for longer periods.
“Owning high quality MSR was a key element in the stable performance of our portfolio this quarter,” Bill Roth, the company’s chief financial officer, said in a press release.
On a conference call Tuesday, executives said they expect to keep adding MSRs at the same pace this year.
The company does not directly service mortgage loans, but instead contracts with fully licensed subservicers to handle substantially all servicing functions for the loans underlying the company’s MSR. It recognized $34.9 million of servicing income, $7.2 million of servicing expenses and $0.1 million in servicing reserve expense during the quarter ended December 31, 2016.
The MSR purchases have been partly funded by a wind-down of Two Harbors' own mortgage loan conduit.
Two Harbors has also been reallocating assets to commercial real estate.
On the earnings call, company executives said they had several new sources of funding to grow both businesses. Most notably, the REIT issued $287 million in convertible bonds after the close of the fourth quarter.