Archive for the ‘Mortgage Guidelines’ Category

New FHA Streamline Guidelines Spring 2011FHA Streamline Refinance guidelines are changing. For the better.

In an effort to improve its loan portfolio, the FHA is loosening approval standards on its popular refinance program, rendering large groups of homeowners suddenly FHA Streamline-eligible.

Now, that may seem counter-intuitive — lowering qualification standards in order to reduce loan defaults — but in the FHA’s case, it makes complete sense. It’s because the FHA doesn’t make loans. It insures them. What’s good for FHA-insured homeowners is good for the FHA, therefore.

All things equal, lower housing payments for its insured homeowners should correlate to fewer FHA loan defaults in Arizona and   nationwide.

One interesting facet of the FHA’s new rulebook is the manner in which the government group is applying common sense to the approval process. So long as the homeowner is current on their mortgage and there’s a demonstrable benefit in the refinance, the FHA reasons, there’s good reason to insure the new loan.

The FHA defines “current on the mortgage” as being up-to-date on payments, and having zero 30-, 60-, or 90-day lates within the last 12 months. Demonstrating benefit is a little more tricky.

According the FHA, “benefit” is defined by refinance type.

When refinancing any fixed rate mortgage, or an existing ARM to a new ARM, the borrower’s new monthly (principal + interest) + (mortgage insurance premium) must be 5% or more below the current levels to meet the FHA’s minimum benefit requirements

The refinance of any ARM to a fixed rate mortgage is considered an acceptable benefit.

Beyond that, Streamline Refinance guidelines are simple:

  • Income is not verified, or required
  • Employment is not verified, or required
  • Assets are not verified, unless required to meet closing costs

Note that an appraisal is not required, either This allows “underwater” homeowners to refinance their FHA-insured home loan without penalty. The downside is that without an appraisal, the new loan size may not exceed the current principal balance plus the FHA’s 1% upfront mortgage premium. All other charges must be paid as cash at closing.

The FHA Streamline program is a refinance program special to FHA-insured homeowners. To confirm your own eligibility, check with your lender.

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LLPA rising April 1 2011Beginning April 1, 2011, Fannie Mae is increasing its loan-level pricing adjustments. Conforming mortgage applicants in Arizona should plan for higher loan costs in the months ahead.

If you’ve never heard of loan-level pricing adjustments, you’re not alone; they’re an obscure mortgage pricing metric and, thus, are rarely covered by the media. That doesn’t make them any less relevant, however.

LLPAs are mandatory closing costs assessed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, designed to offset a given loan’s risk of default. LLPAs were first introduced in April 2009.

This April’s amendment is the 6th increase in 2 years. LLPAs can be costly.

In addition to an up-front, quarter-percent fee applied to all loans, there are 5 additional “risk categories” in the LLPA equation:

  1. Credit Score : Lower FICO scores trigger additional costs
  2. Property Type : Multi-unit homes trigger additional costs
  3. Occupancy : Investment properties trigger additional costs
  4. Structure : Loans with subordinate financing may trigger additional costs
  5. Equity : Loans with less than 25% equity trigger additional costs

Adjustments range from 0.25 points (for having a 735 FICO score) to 3.000 points (for buying an investment property with just 20% downpayment). And they’re cumulative. This means that a borrower that triggers 3 categories of risk must pay the costs associated with all 3 traits.

Loan-level pricing adjustments can be expensive — up to 5 percent or more of your loan size in closing costs. The fees can be paid a one-time cash payment at closing, or they can be paid in the form of a higher mortgage rate.

The loan-level pricing adjustment schedule is public. You can research your own loan scenario at the Fannie Mae website, but you may find the charts confusing.

Phone or email your loan officer if you’re unsure of what you’re reading.

Fed Lending Guidelines Q4 2010Mortgage lending appears to be loosening. At least for now.

In its quarterly survey of member banks, the Federal Reserve asks senior loan officers around the country whether their “prime” residential mortgage guidelines had tightened within the last 3 months.

A prime borrower is one with a well-documented credit history, high credit scores, and a low debt-to-income ratio.

Of the 54 responding banks, just 2 said its guidelines had tightened during the period October-December 2010. That’s less than 4 percent. And, by comparison, 95 percent of banks said guidelines remained “basically unchanged”.

The remaining banks reported a loosening.

It’s a positive sign for the housing market, and for home buyers in Scottsdale and nationwide. If banks have stopped raising the hurdles of home loan approval, in theory, more would-be buyers will be approved.

It’s much tougher to get a home loan versus 5 years ago. Delinquencies and defaults have changed how banks review loan applications. Today’s underwriters are more conservative with respect to household income, total assets and overall credit scores.

Even as compared to January 2010, approval standards are higher : 

  • Minimum credit score requirements are higher
  • Downpayment/equity requirements are larger
  • Maximum allowable debt-to-income ratios have been lowered

Although mortgage rates remain low, qualification standards do not. Based on last quarter’s banking survey, however, mortgage applicants in California may find approvals easier to come by soon. Low rates don’t matter, after all, if you’re not eligible to get them.

The housing market is strong and lending looks to be loosening. It should help fuel the demand for homes in 2011, which will push supplies down and lead prices up. For homeowners that qualify, therefore, the best time to purchase a home may be sometime this spring.

Fannie Mae changes mortgage guidelinesFannie Mae rolls out new mortgage guidelines Monday. Therefore, if you’re in the process of applying for a conforming home loan, consider giving your complete application by the close of business Friday.

All Fannie Mae applications taken on, or after, December 13, 2010, are subject to the changes.

As compared to mortgage guidelines updates of the last 3 years, Monday’s roll-out is relatively small. There is no change to the maximum debt-to-income ratio, for example; nor is there an increase in the minimum FICO score requirement.

Most mortgage applicants in Scottsdale and nationwide will be unaffected.

Others, however, will find getting approved to be more difficult.

The most major change is with respect to revolving and installment debt. This category includes credit cards, charge cards, and student loans, among others. Going forward:

  1. Debt with fewer than 10 payments remaining must now be included in an applicant’s monthly obligations.
  2. Debt not reporting a monthly payment must be assigned a payment equal to 5% of the outstanding credit balance.

These edits will raise applicants’ debt-to-income ratios, and may push some of them beyond the maximum allowable limits, resulting in a denial. People with relatively large car payments are especially susceptible.

Another change relates to receiving gift funds for a purchase. Unlike debt calculations, though, the “gifting” process is getting easier.

Under the new Fannie Mae guidelines, buyers of owner-occupied, 1-unit properties (i.e. single-family homes, condos, townhomes) can forgo Fannie Mae’s customary, minimum 5% downpayment contribution from personal funds. Downpayments can be comprised 100 percent of gifted and/or granted monies.

Buyers of second or investment homes, or multi-unit properties must still make a 5% downpayment from their own funds.

And, lastly, Fannie Mae is easing some of its documentation requirements. Salaried applicants from whom commissions and/or bonuses paid account for less than 25% of annual income will have fewer paystubs to produce for underwriting.

Fannie Mae’s complete guideline changes are available online at http://efanniemae.com.

Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey on Bank Lending Practices

It’s getting tougher to get approved for a mortgage. Still.

In its quarterly survey of senior loan officers around the country, the Federal Reserve asked whether “prime” residential mortgage guidelines” have tightened in the prior 3 months.

A “prime” borrower typically carries a well-documented credit history with high credit scores, has a low debt-to-income ratio, and uses a traditional fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgage.

For the period July-September 2010, 52 of 54 responding loan officers admitted to tightening their prime guidelines, or leaving them “basically unchanged”.

Just 4% of banks loosened their lending standards.

If you’ve applied for a home loan lately — for either purchase or refinance — you’ve likely experienced the effects of the last 4 years. Because of delinquencies and defaults, today’s mortgage underwriters are forced to scrutinize income, assets and credit scores, among other facets of an home loan application.

Mortgage applicants in Phoenix have higher hurdles to clear:

  • Minimum credit scores are higher versus last year
  • Downpayment/equity requirements are larger versus last year
  • Debt-to-Income ratios must be lower versus last year

In other words, although mortgage rates are the lowest they’ve been in history, qualification standards are not.  Minimum eligibility requirements are tougher, and appear to be toughening still.

If you’re among the many people wondering if now is the right time to join the Refinance Boom, or to buy a home, consider that, while mortgage rates may fall further, eligibility standards may not.

Low mortgage rates don’t matter if you can’t qualify for them