A shrinking inventory of affordable housing and rising mortgage rates are making the real estate market even more competitive for homeowners. Those looking for an edge may want to consider getting a loan from a financial technology startup, otherwise known as a fintech.
A new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and New York University issued by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that technology-driven lenders have created efficiencies in the home lending business that give them an edge over traditional lenders. These fintechs are able to process loans quicker, can better handle movements in demand and have fewer loans that end up defaulting. They are also gaining on their traditional brethren, with the study finding that fintech lenders' market share jumped to 8% in 2016 from 2% in 2010. In 2010, the fintechs originated $34 billion in mortgages. That stood at $161 billion as of the end of 2016. A lot of the growth came from Federal Housing Administration loans.
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In terms of their ability to process mortgage loans, the research revealed that fintechs are doing so about 20% quicker than traditional lenders. "Faster processing does not come at the cost of higher defaults. Fintech lenders adjust supply more elastically than other lenders in response to exogenous mortgage demand shocks, thereby alleviating capacity constraints associated with traditional mortgage lending," wrote the New York Fed and New York University in the report. "In areas with more fintech lending, borrowers refinance more, especially when it is in their interest to do so. We find no evidence that fintech lenders target marginal borrowers. Our results suggest that technological innovation has improved the efficiency of financial intermediation in the U.S. mortgage market."
The researchers found that around 25% of mortgages issued by fintechs defaulted, which is lower than the industry average. That derails the argument that fintechs engage in lax screening of borrowers and actually implies they are attracting and providing home loans to borrowers who are less risky.
As for who is taking out a mortgage with a fintech over a traditional lender, the study found that the borrowers tend to be from more educated populations and are older, which may be surprising but could be because they are more familiar with the process of getting a mortgage and thus require less hand-holding. What's more, the study found no evidence that fintechs are going after marginal borrowers and reported that there is no digital divide in mortgage lending.
"Recent technological innovations are improving the efficiency of the U.S. mortgage market. We find that fintech lenders process mortgages more quickly without increasing loan risk, respond more elastically to demand shocks, and increase the propensity to refinance, especially among borrowers that are likely to benefit from it," wrote the researchers.