Construction is taking a back seat to lending for some U.S. homebuilders, turning the uneven housing recovery into an earnings boom. At PulteGroup Inc., the second-largest builder by market value, mortgage revenue jumped 70 percent in the third quarter, almost six times the revenue gain from home sales. At Lennar Corp., the No. 1 builder, mortgage-unit revenue surged 60 percent, double the increase in sales revenue. Aided by lucrative lending units, both companies posted the biggest overall profits since 2006. “Homebuilders are getting extra help right now from mortgages,” said Jack Micenko, a homebuilding analyst at Susquehanna International Group in New York. “They’re over- earning in those areas because lending margins are so wide, but they can’t depend on that going forward.” A Federal Reserve program aimed at lowering borrowing costs by purchasing home-loan bonds has widened margins across the lending industry, with JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon in October describing his bank’s mortgage production margins as “very high.” The average gain-on-sale, which measures the difference between the rate homeowners pay and the rate paid by investors, has doubled this year on increased demand for the securities, Micenko said.
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