The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is planning to make some changes aimed at widening the accessibility of mortgage loans by allowing lenders more freedom in determining a borrower’s ability to repay. Currently, one of the requirements for a qualified mortgage (QM), the loan type preferred by both lenders and consumers, is a debt-to-income ratio of no more than 43%. This criterion is designed to be an indicator of the borrower’s ability to repay. However, there are other methods of determining this that can broaden the range of QMs. The CFPB’s solution is to compare the loan’s annual percentage rate (APR) to the average prime offer rate (APOR). Because a borrower with a high DTI would likely also have a high APR compared to APOR, DTI considerations are still indirectly included, but there will also be people with a high DTI but low risk of default that are able to get a good APR to APOR ratio and therefore successfully get a QM loan.
As a result of home sales volume dropping by 30% in Quarter 2 of 2020 from 2019, loan origination has also dropped considerably. The effect was somewhat lessened by low interest rates, which resulted in more refinances. The commercial sector, however, didn’t have that luxury. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) forecasts a 59% decrease from 2019 in total commercial loan amount, from $601 billion to $248 billion. The majority of this will be from the multi-family sector, which was at a record high of $364 billion in 2019 but is only expected to reach $213 billion this year.
Lenders are optimistic, though, as long as governments can continue to keep people housed. Vacancies aren’t great for lenders, as they reduce the prospects of landlords, and recently evicted people certainly won’t be looking to originate new home loans any time soon. The MBA expects 2021 to bring the number up to $390 billion for commercial loans. The catch is that commercial landlords aren’t protected by the recently extended foreclosure moratorium. If multi-family homeowners are hit with a foreclosure, all their tenants will be affected as well. Commercial property owners as well as lenders are looking for new methods of loan accommodations.
There are two types of mortgage loan insurance, and it’s also possible to avoid needing insurance. Mortgage insurance premiums (MIP) are the type of insurance required by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA). The other type is private mortgage insurance, or PMI. It’s easier to qualify for FHA loans, but private loans come with some additional benefits if you do qualify. Most notably, it’s only PMI that you can avoid; if you only qualify for an FHA loan and not a private loan, MIP can’t be ignored.
Private lenders generally have stricter credit score requirements than the FHA. In return, the higher your down payment, the lower your premium amount. Furthermore, if your down payment is at least 20%, you aren’t required to get loan insurance, so you avoid paying PMI. If you’re getting an FHA loan, you’re stuck with MIP for at least 11 years. On the bright side, the down payment amount to qualify for a reduction to 11 year MIP is 10%, not 20%.
Generally, the greater you can make your down payment, the better. Of course, paying all cash to avoid a loan at all is ideal, but not everyone can afford to do that, so keep in mind the important breakpoints. If you qualify for a private loan, putting at least 20% down is probably your best bet. Even if you only qualify for an FHA loan, be sure to put at least 10% down so that you aren’t stuck with MIP for the entire duration of the loan.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced in August that it would be charging an additional refinancing fee to offset losses due to COVID-19. The new fee was expected to come into effect yesterday, September 1st, but at the last minute, the FHFA rescheduled it to December 1st. We’re still in the midst of a recession, so the FHFA doesn’t want to make too many changes too early.
The new fee exempts refinance loans with balances below $125,000, affordable refinance products, Home Ready, and Home Possible. Applicable loans, which are cash-out and limited cash-out refinance loans, will have 0.5% added to each transaction. While this fee applies directly to lenders, it also indirectly affects borrowers in the form of higher interest rates. While the FHFA certainly wants to recoup their projected $6 billion in losses, they’ve agreed that now is not the time; the economy still needs to recover first.
I’ve previously mentioned that COVID-19 and the current economic downturn have resulted in an increase in mortgage forbearance requests. But what about mortgage applications? Interestingly, even as fewer people are able to pay their mortgages, people are still applying for mortgages, looking to take advantage of the current low interest rates on mortgage loans. And getting rejected at a much higher rate.
Lenders will always want to ensure that people are able to pay back the money they borrow. Obviously if the borrower has a mortgage in forbearance, well, that borrower doesn’t stand a great chance of being able to pay back a new mortgage. But even beyond that, lenders have been tightening restrictions in the wake of lessened economic stability. They are requiring higher credit scores, larger down payments, and more savings. Someone who was largely unaffected by the economic downturn may think they have a good chance at getting their mortgage loan approved. Not necessarily, if they were basing their expectations on old lender restrictions. Lenders are going to need to find the right balance between encouraging borrowers — since that’s how they make their money — and avoiding risky lending practices.
Record-high unemployment since the Great Depression is worrying for people looking to buy a home. And it’s true that it’s very difficult to buy a home while unemployed, since lenders are are looking for stable income. Unemployment income is considered temporary income, which lenders aren’t going to look at. Even once you find a job again, lenders typically want two years of continuous employment. Gaps in employment older than two years don’t impact your chances of lending negatively, though, so that won’t be a concern in a long run.
Another problem is that lack of income could put a strain on your credit score. While you will eventually become employed again, changes to your credit score can be much harder to erase. In order to maximize your chances of getting a loan in the future, you should do as much as you can, starting now, to keep your credit score intact. Always make minimum payments if possible. Ask your landlord and credit companies about other payment plans, deferment, or forbearance. Cut back on unnecessary spending. The good news is that even if your credit score does take a dive, once you’ve settled the debts and start to rebuild your credit, it shouldn’t take too long to get your credit score back up — roughly six months to year, meaning you may have already recovered your credit before lenders will consider your employment to be stable.
Data has been showing that forbearances on mortgage loans have been trending downwards in June from the peak on May 22, albeit at a slow rate. However, this doesn’t tell the whole story. The downward trend totalling 158,000 is almost entirely from loans backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac or FHA/VA loans. Loans backed by banks or private securities are actually up 6000.
This trend points to trouble particularly for self-employed borrowers. Even with some people returning to work or working from home as lockdowns are phased out, in an uncertain economy, self-employed people don’t have the same reliability of income. Most private loans are held by self-employed workers. Without a stable income, self-employed people aren’t certain whether or not they’ll be able to pay back their mortgages until the economy re-situates itself, so more of them are requesting forbearances.