Following the greatest housing crash since the Great Depression, home lending standards have tightened to their strictest levels in decades.
Tight home loan credit is affecting everything from home sales to household finances. Many borrowers are struggling to qualify for loans to buy homes. Others can’t take advantage of some of the lowest interest rates in 50 years because they don’t have enough equity in their homes to refinance.
Those who can get loans typically need higher credit scores and bigger down payments than they would have in recent years. They face more demands to prove their incomes, verify assets, show steady employment and explain things such as new credit cards and small bank account deposits.
Even then, they may not qualify for the lowest interest rates.
Sometimes, even borrowers with seemingly pristine finances are struggling to close home loans.
Plus, nearly all borrowers are facing more documentation requests. In other words, the era of “no docs” is over.
Except for a few years leading up to the real estate crash — when some borrowers got loans while providing little if any documentation of their assets and income — borrowers have long had to supply two years of tax returns, pay stubs and financial statements when applying for home loans.
Now, lenders want tax records to come directly from the IRS, as well as from borrowers. The IRS releases the records after applicants sign forms giving it permission to do so. Instead of two months of bank statements and pay stubs, lenders may want them for each pay period until the loan closes.
Higher standards do appear to be reducing loan defaults, which means fewer foreclosures in the future.
Fewer than 1.3% of loans originated in 2009 that were resold to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae went into default after 18 months, government data show. That’s down from more than 22% default rates for 2007 loans and about 3% default rates in 2002.
Yet, many argue that the tight standards are a drag on the economy.
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