How to Find an Underwriter in the Midst of a Mortgage Refinancing Surge

A refinancing boom challenges mortgage lenders to grow quickly, creating opportunities for nimbler firms.

Key Insights:

  • More than 10 million households may be refinancing their mortgages in the coming months leading to a backlog in mortgage applications.
  • Lenders needing to hire additional mortgage underwriters should consider hiring in smaller metros where talent is available and competition is scarcer.
  • Senior mortgage underwriters—those with 5+ years of experience—represent the majority of available talent, yet have the fewest options when it comes to job openings.

Google Trends for the search term “refinance” in the US

Like many Americans, I spent recent weeks watching mortgage rates fall and considered when to refinance. After researching and researching I squeezed the trigger last Thursday, and began submitting the mountains of necessary paperwork (W2s, tax returns, etc).

Around 10 PM that evening my phone buzzed, and I was surprised to find 2 new tasks assigned to me from my mortgage lender. Somewhere a team of mortgage underwriters was burning the midnight oil.  

Mortgage Underwriting Email Alert

Market Context: The 2019 Mortgage Boom

While recent weeks have been marred by market turmoil, one positive outcome has emerged from escalating trade tensions: investors have driven the 30-year fixed mortgage rate to near historic lows. At the time of writing, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate reached 3.81 percent, according to Bankrate’s weekly survey. As consumers respond to low rates, the mortgage industry faces a record number of mortgage applications, and an additional 10 million households could potentially take advantage of mortgage refinancing.

Overwhelmed, Mortgage Hiring Surges

Marketplace’s Amy Scott recently reported that mortgage companies are rushing to hire mortgage underwriters to help with their backlogs of mortgage applications. Mortgage job posts are soaring across job sites. Job posts on WizeHire jumped 46% versus this time last year. 

Watching this story unfold, I was curious about the job market for mortgage underwriters and where the best (and worst) cities for hiring critical mortgage roles are right now. To answer these questions, we surveyed the most popular job sites for mortgage underwriters job postings across major cities. We then estimated the number of qualified job seekers in each city using resume databases and WizeHire’s anonymized data.

So where are the best cities for hiring mortgage underwriters?

Smaller metros consistently have more qualified job seekers than job openings; a trend we have observed previously in Real Estate. Raleigh, NC tops the list with more than 4 mortgage underwriting job seekers for every job opening. 

Online lender Quicken Loans is particularly well suited as they hire for more than 1300 openings in top cities like Detroit, MI (#9) and Charlotte, NC (#6).

The 10 Best Cities for Hiring Mortgage Underwriters

City Job Openings Underwriters to Openings
1. Raleigh, NC 14 4.07
2. Riverside, CA 31 3.94
3. San Antonio, TX 18 3.72
4. Durham, NC 14 3.64
5. Jacksonville, FL 42 3.52
6. Charlotte, NC 73 2.23
7. Indianapolis, IN 13 2.15
8. Richmond, VA 18 2.11
9. Detroit, MI 52 2.06
10. Boulder, CO 25 2.00

 

Hiring in larger cities poses a greater challenge for hiring underwriters. Boston, MA tops our list of the hardest cities to hire underwriters because there are more than 2 job openings for every mortgage underwriting job seeker right now. 

The 10 Hardest Cities for Hiring Mortgage Underwriters

City Job Openings Underwriters to Openings
1. Boston, MA 48 0.43
2. Seattle, WA 50 0.44
3. San Jose, CA 45 0.53
4. New York, NY 175 0.65
5. Lakeland, FL 41 0.68
6. Vallejo, CA 68 0.75
7. San Francisco, CA 73 0.76
8. San Diego, CA 50 0.78
9. Orlando, FL 37 0.81
10. Austin, TX 40 0.85

 

There’s a lot of Senior Talent. What’s missing?

As we dug into the numbers a more astonishing trend surfaced: the majority (92%) of underwriting job seekers are highly experienced candidates with more than 5+ years of experience in the industry. Unfortunately, only 280 senior-level job openings (10% of job openings), as of August 2019, align with these senior candidates’ experience levels. 

Labor economists call this a “mismatch,” which is a poor alignment between the skills and experience job seekers possess and what employers are seeking for job openings.  Using a common measurement for job mismatch, we found an 82% misalignment between the experience levels required for current mortgage underwriting job openings and the experience levels of potential mortgage underwriting candidates. This is double the mismatch of the broad economy. 

While the mortgage industry is full of senior mortgage talent open to new opportunities, the industry as a whole has a glut of over 1,800+ entry-level job openings (63% of current job openings) that less than 6% of active underwriting job seekers could fill.

Misalignment of Job Openings and Job Seekers by Level of Experience

Level of Experience % of Job Openings % of Job Seekers
Entry Level 63% 6%
Mid Level 27% 2%
Senior Level 10% 92%

Tips for Mortgage Lenders looking to Hire

Based on today’s job market, WizeHire’s recommendation to companies hiring mortgage underwriters is to pursue one of three well-researched strategies:

  • Relax qualification standards for entry-level positions: If your business is looking to hire entry-level mortgage underwriters, given the shortage of junior underwriters open to new opportunities, we recommend relaxing the job qualifications and being open to candidates from outside the industry or those with transferable skills, such as job seekers working as a mortgage processor—an assistant to underwriters.
  • Be open to remote underwriters: There is a clear imbalance between the available talent in certain cities. If you are a mortgage lender in one of the top 10 hardest cities for hiring mortgage underwriters, we highly recommend pursuing a recruiting strategy that genuinely includes job seekers from different parts of the country.  
  • Increase pay to build job openings aligned with candidates: Lastly, with thousands of experienced underwriters waiting on the sidelines, we recommend opening new job opportunities to more senior mortgage underwriters with commensurate pay and responsibility. In the near-term, this may be expensive, but it is far better than stretching out the time-to-hire while mortgage backlogs rise. Increasing pay may also encourage passive junior candidates to apply!

READY TO HIRE AN UNDERWRITER?

Methodology

To identify mortgage underwriter job openings for each city in our analysis, we surveyed the most popular job sites (Indeed.com, ZipRecruiter.com, and Google.com) for “mortgage underwriter” jobs to build a database of unique employer and city pairs representing unique job openings. This survey found 2,922 open jobs during August 2019. 

We estimated the pool of active job seeker for mortgage underwriter jobs in each city by querying for the count of recently updated job seeker profiles matching “mortgage underwriter” as a recent job title. We utilized the most popular resume databases (Indeed.com and ZipRecruiter.com) for this research. We found 1,531 job seeker profiles matching our search criteria that were recently updated during August 2019.

To quantify mismatch, we used a popular measurement for mismatch within job markets. We classified both job openings and active jobseekers across three levels of experience with mortgage underwriting: entry-level as less than 2 years of experience, mid-level as 3 to 5 years of experience, and senior-level as 6 or more years of experience.

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