The Journey From Non-Delegated To Delegated
If the mortgage banker has a delegated relationship with the correspondent, then the banker needs to have an in-house underwriter issue the loan approval. This in-house underwriter needs to follow guidelines of the correspondent lender and underwrite the loan to their standards.
“So it really becomes a matter of it being cost effective,” Roberts said. “Because when you go from being a non-delegated to a delegated, you have to hire an underwriter.”
And underwriters aren’t cheap.
“An underwriter salary is roughly $100,000 a year,” O’Dell says. “You’ve got to look into the math and see what your underwriter can underwrite and you know, if you’re willing to take on that additional risk for the additional return on those loans.”
Having an in-house underwriter can be extremely helpful during busy times. On average, underwriting turnaround times can be seven days or more, but with a good in-house underwriter, it can be done much quicker. However, this also comes with more risk. If the in-house underwriter makes a mistake, the lender will not purchase the loan.
“The higher up the food chain you go, you’re taking on more risk,” O’Dell says.
Transitioning from non-delegated to delegated means taking on more risk. If the in-house underwriter approves too many bad loans, it can easily bankrupt a small mortgage banker. In a non-delegated scenario, if the correspondent lender’s underwriter approves a loan that goes bad, it’s the lender’s responsibility. In a delegated scenario, the responsibility falls on the mortgage banker. When loans go bad, the mortgage banker has to buy the loan back, also known as scratch and dent loans.
Higher Earning Potential?
Mortgage bankers also have higher earning potential. As you may know, mortgage brokers get paid by wholesale lenders or borrowers going lender paid or borrower paid respectively. The loans close under the wholesale lenders name and the broker compensation maximum a company can earn acting as a mortgage broker is 2.75%.
Unlike mortgage brokers, mortgage bankers do not have to disclose their fees or how much they make on each transaction because they use their own money to fund loans (their warehouse line). Thus, mortgage bankers can see substantially higher profits than they would with a broker compensation plan where the maximum is 2.75%. However, the higher the compensation, the higher the mortgage rates. As a result, mortgage bankers typically have higher rates and fees than brokers. Given the high interest rate environment we are now in, this channel may have some drawbacks.
“As opposed to a broker that’s got a fixed compensation plan, when you move to delegated, you don’t have a fixed compensation plan as the owner of the company,” O’Dell says. “When you move to a true delegated relationship, you’re taking on a lot more risk. And, of course, you should get a bigger return on that from selling the loan from fee income and everything else.”
When a broker transitions into non-delegated and then delegated, the risk is in the disclosures, O’Dell explains. Are you disclosing that correctly or is a third party disclosing that correctly for you? Are you drawing the documents correctly?
“So if there was a mistake made on the debt ratio or the appraisal wasn’t scrutinized correctly you could have a loan that’s not sellable,” O’Dell says. “The lender would choose not to buy that loan based on the underwriting errors that happened on that. And then of course you have the same risk in terms of drawing documents that are compliant and match your underwriting approval.”
If a delegated or non-delegated loan is unsellable, it gets stuck on the warehouse line. When loans get stuck, the warehouse lender works with their client to get those loans moved off the line.
“By far the majority of the loans that are stuck on the line are the delegated loans,” Roberts says. “And so you wanna make sure that there’s not any manufacturing errors and you’ve got to be prepared.”
When To Make The Leap
There are certain times when it can be opportunistic to transition into becoming a mortgage banker.
If you’re thinking of transitioning from mortgage broker to mortgage banker, the first thing to take into consideration is how many loans you’re closing, Roberts says. If a broker is a high producer, they may want to consider transitioning into a non-delegated with a correspondent lender. Typically, brokers move into non-delegated first because they can save expenses and reduce risks from outsourcing the underwriting process. Again, mortgage bankers charge higher interest rates because of fees and additional expenses, so the pricing needs to be competitive.
“Like if you’ve got a broker that’s looking to convert to a banker or a non-delegated correspondent, they’re looking for somebody that’s gonna help them and handhold them in the beginning,” O’Dell says. “So they might be a little less price sensitive and might be more interested in that personal relationship and being able to walk through loans, you know, a bigger lender out there definitely is more price driven.”
In terms of what technology a lender offers, it’s important but it does not weigh so much on the mortgage banker’s decision making, O’Dell says. Most lenders have pretty similar and pretty good technology right now. “It’s less of a factor than we used to talk about, you know, a few years back,” he added.
It’s important to note that just because you have an in-house underwriter, does not mean they need to underwrite all the loans you bring in. For example, if your underwriter is not confident or qualified to handle Non-QM loans, a Non-QM lender that offers their programs through their correspondent channel can do them for you, and those loans could be non-delegated.
“You might have a lender that you send your non-QM product to that specializes or only does Non-QM product. You might have another lender that does HELOCs and you send that loan to them. You might have another lender that just does agency loans and so you’ll send those loans to them,” O’Dell says. “Typically most of our non-delegated correspondents, I would say, do business pretty regularly with two to four investors out there like me.”
The same is true with the delegated correspondents, Roberts says. The delegated correspondents need to have multiple channels to sell that loan to because they may, in some cases, not even have a lock in place until the loan’s ready to be delivered. You need to be able to deliver it to multiple different investors and you have to underwrite it to the most stringent guidelines for all of them.
When transitioning from non-delegated to delegated, they again have to consider the costs of bringing on an in-house underwriter. According to Indeed, the national average salary is nearly $76,000.
“Are you doing enough loans and is there a big enough delta between the pricing of non-delegated and delegated for it to make sense for it to pay for itself?” Roberts says. “It can be an expense, it can be a profit center, or it could be break even. You do take additional costs on not only for the underwriting but compliance, et cetera. So that’s something you would want to sit down and do the math on before you make that transition.”
There are also certain times when the market makes it more or less favorable to go non-delegated or delegated. When origination volume is high, it’s more advantageous to go delegated. When volume is low, it’s better to go non-delegated.
“The busier it is, the higher demand for underwriting there is,” Roberts says. “It’s also harder for investors to retain the number of underwriters they need in order to handle volume. So they start stepping on the price, so to speak. They start ratcheting back the pricing of non-delegated loans, and improve the pricing for the delegated loans. This makes it more attractive to buy delegated loans. This way it doesn’t affect their underwriting capacity as much. Conversely, if you’re not dealing with a lot of volume, you would go for non-delegated.”
Roberts continued: “Right now the deltas between non delegated and delegated pricing is not very much. But back in 2020 when there was a shortage of underwriting, it was like 125 basis point difference. So it’s easier to make sense of making that transition then than it is now.”