TORONTO - Home Capital Group Inc. (HCG.TO) says its first-quarter net income slipped by nearly 20 per cent from a year ago despite growth in its mortgage portfolio.

The alternative mortgage lender saw mortgage originations rise 4.9 per cent to $1.22 billion during the three-month period ended March 31, compared with $1.16 billion a year earlier.

But Home Capital's earnings for the quarter amounted $27.8 million or 45 cents per share, compared with $34.6 million in net income or 43 cents per share during the first quarter of 2018.

That fell short of the 48 cents in earnings per share expected by analysts, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.

The Toronto-based lender saw non-interest expenses grow to $60 million, up roughly 17 per cent from $51.4 million a year earlier, as the company returned to "more normalized" staffing levels.

Home Capital says it expects the Canadian real estate market to be "stable" for the rest of 2019 with "improving affordability, healthy levels of competition and stable interest rates."