September 2020 was the peak closing month in the nearly five-year long history of TMC Benchmark. Since that month we'd seen five straight months of declines in closed loan production from our national network of best-in-class lender members that report data to our popular data benchmarking tool. That run of decline ended in March of 2021. The average closed loan units per lender was up over 27% in March versus February.
The strong closing month in March was fueled by the huge application month we wrote about this space in January. New applications taken in January 2021 were up 31% versus December 2020, and now we're seeing a 27.1% increase in March closed loans versus February. The product mix on March closings stayed consistent with past months with 78%of closed loan units being done on conventional loans, 17% on government products, and 5% on other products. 55% of March closings were on refinances, down from 61% in February. The purchase/refinance mix for our network ran pretty close to 50/50 for the last six months of last year.
March new applications also increased when compared to February, up 6.8% off the month prior. One item of note on March applications is that the % of conventional loans fell from 78% to 75%, the lowest mix of conventional applications since the pandemic hit.
In more good news for our members, operational efficiency bettered in March and average salaries paid to operational employees decreased. The number of closed loan units closed per full-time processor in March increased to 15.0 from 11.6 the month prior. Closed loan units per full-time underwriter rose from 47.9 from 37.8 in February. Closed loan units per full-time closer increased to 56.0 from 45.9 a month ago. The average loan originator closed 8.6 loans in March, up from 6.9 in February. That average was in the low 8's all summer before peaking at 8.7 in September 2020. LO comp came in at an average of 96.4 bps on March closings, down from 99.9 bps in February.
After peaking in the summer, and subsiding in the fall, average salaries paid to processors and underwriters plummeted this month. On average, processors in our network were paid an average of $49,900 annually in March (down from $54,000 in February), while underwriters came in at $84,800 (down from $94,800 in February). Closers average annual pay stayed identical coming in at $55,600.
The average "app date to clear to close date" time frame decreased again in March for the second straight month after six straight month of increases. Let's take a look at how this number has trended throughout the course of the last several months:
The average cost per closed loan unit our members paid for their loan origination system came in at $118 in March, up $1 from the month prior. We also saw slight increases in the average cost per closed loan for point-of-sale systems to $60 and for CRM's at $87. The average non-third party lender fees charged by our members on March closed loans was $1,106 on conventional loans and $1,023 on higher margin government loans.
53% of this month's participants in TMC Benchmark were depositories and 47% were IMB's. 39% originate under $500M a year in annual volume, 27% originate between $500M-$1B, and 34% originate over $1 billion per year in annual production.
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The Mortgage Collaborative
TMC - Chief Operating Officer