Black Friday 2014 may be over, but holiday home shoppers still have something to look forward to in the form of less stringent mortgage standards. Although shopping for a mortgage may not be as exciting (or dangerous) as competing for that one 42-inch flat-screen TV remaining on the store shelf, the recent loosening of mortgage qualification guidelines is a gift that promises to keep on giving for homebuyers and the economy at large.
The new Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac standards, which lenders must adhere to in order to make their loans sellable to those agencies, began to loosen earlier this year, but the representations and warranties didn’t fully take effect until Dec. 1.
The biggest point of contention was when and how a lender would be penalized if it underwrote a loan that went sour. That stalemate was understandable. Inadequate underwriting resulted in tens of billions of dollars in loan buybacks and penalties to lenders. Tighter lending criteria were simply a precaution by the lending intuitions that felt the deep sting of what happens when credit is given too freely.
Looser credit standards
Easing credit standards may be just the boost to the housing market economists have been calling for, with the potential to convert hundreds of thousands of consumers into homeowners.
Earlier this year, The Urban Institute projected that these changes could contribute 1.2 million new home loans if lending practices mirrored what is considered a “normal” credit standard.
Some lenders are embracing the updates and expect to shift their guidelines rather quickly. Wells Fargo recognized the changes coming down the pipeline and began lifting its own overlays earlier in 2014. With the formal changes now in place, Wells Fargo is saying that its applicants may see changes as soon as the next few weeks.
Faster turn times for a loan to be completed is one change that many borrowers will be elated to embrace. In some cases, it has taken up to 60 days for a loan to close from the time it was initiated. That has been frustrating to many home sellers, who would prefer to close in 30 to 45 days.
A reduction in paperwork is another positive change.
Lenders had been requiring applicants to write letters of explanation for the smallest of things, like a late payment on a car loan. Even if the late payment had no ill effect on the actual loan approval, many lenders enforced the overlay simply because they were unsure whether the blemish could possibly cause a repurchase demand from Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
In other instances, credit scores had overlays. Even though Fannie and Freddie would back loans with a borrower at a 620 score, lenders sometimes required the applicant to have a 660 score or higher. Now, some lenders may become more lenient in their own requirement, with borrowers at the 620 mark no longer being disregarded.
Naughty or nice?
Even though some lenders are optimistic about the changes, others are taking a wait-and-see approach. Both Bank of America and US Bank’s key executives aren’t ready to widen their nets with looser standards, despite the fact that the collateral damage from litigation and a shifting regulatory environment has all but disappeared.
Regardless of your opinion, the statistics show the writing on the wall: The economy needs to see more homebuying activity to keep the U.S. economy moving toward a more robust recovery. Last week, the Case-Shiller Index reported that U.S. home prices grew less than 5 percent during the 12-month period ending in September — the slowest pace in 24 months.
For better or worse, loosening credit standards is a sign that the powers that be may be ready for lenders to get back to the business of lending. Lenders have been reined in and penalized enough to responsibly lend again without overzealous restrictions. Whether this is an overdue and prudent development in lending or a sign of looser standards to come will be something we’ll all be waiting to see.
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Michael Kane is a Broker Associate at Keller Williams. He is a member of the Carr Peck & Associates team that is recognized locally and nationally as in expert in real estate. Locally he is a member of the Denver Metro Association of Realtors. Nothing brings him more joy than making his client’s dreams become a reality! For more information feel free to contact him or call 303-717-9284.
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Author:Jason Peck Phone: 720-446-6301 Dated: December 8th 2014 Views: 1,046 About Jason: ...
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"We worked with Karen Venier for a relatively short time for a good reason: our home sold at full price within hours of hitting the market! While it’s true that the Denver housing market is “hot,” credit for the speed and ease of our transaction belongs to Karen. She was great to work with, giving us perfect advice about readying our home for sale and then expertly guiding us from offer to close. Along the way, we came to appreciate Karen for her skillful blend of professionalism and personal touches – like dropping off our favorite beverages during a particularly stressful time in our move or shoveling our driveway in subzero temps after we’d left the state (way beyond the call of duty!). Now that we’ve relocated to Wisconsin, we keep saying that we wish Karen could be our buyer’s agent here. Since that’s not possible, we’ll shout her name loudly to whoever might be looking for a home in the Denver area.
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