Saturday, December 16, 2017
Business

The Nation's Housing: Lenders keeping mortgage stands high

Lenders not easing mortgage standards

WASHINGTON — With 30-year mortgage rates hitting new lows and recent borrowers' payment performance the best by far in decades, you'd think that banks and lenders might be loosening up on their hyper-strict underwriting standards.

But new national data from inside the industry suggest this is not happening. In fact, in some key areas, standards appear to be tightening even further, and the time needed to close a loan is getting longer.

The average FICO credit score on all new loans closed in August was 750, nine points higher than a year earlier, according to Ellie Mae Inc., a Pleasanton, Calif.-based mortgage technology firm whose software is used by many lenders. The sample represents about one-fifth of all new loans — roughly 2 million mortgages.

At Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the average FICO score was even higher. For refinancings in August, the average approved borrower had a 769 FICO score, up six points from August 2011. The average score for borrowers purchasing homes was 763, one point higher than the year before.

FICO scores are used by virtually all mortgage lenders to gauge the credit risk posed by a borrower. Scores range from 300 to 850, with low scores representing higher probability of default, high scores indicating low risk. Fair Isaac Co., developer of the scoring model, says 78.5 percent of all consumers currently have scores between 300 and 749. Barely one in five, in other words, scores high enough to meet today's averages at Fannie and Freddie.

Other signs of how strict standards have become:

• The average purchaser using a Fannie-Freddie loan made a down payment of 21 percent in August and had a squeaky-clean debt-to-income ratio — with total monthly debt payments, including the mortgage — amounting to just 33 percent of income. Refinancers had an average equity stake in their houses of 30 percent.

• In August, according to Ellie Mae's survey, the average FICO score for Federal Housing Administration (FHA) refinancers was 717, up 11 points from the year earlier. FHA home purchasers had average scores of 700 — four points below what they were 12 months ago — but still far beyond historical norms. FHA officially accepts FICOs as low as 500 and requires 10 percent down payments for borrowers below 580 but does little business at these score levels.

• In addition to — or maybe because of — the tougher standards, the mortgage process itself appears to be slowing down. The average time from application to closing for all loans during the time cycle in the Ellie Mae survey was 49 days, nine days longer than the previous August. For refinancings, the average processing time was 51 days, up from 37 days a year earlier.

What's going on here? Given the Federal Reserve's repeated interventions to lower the cost of money to banks, why are they keeping their credit requirements so high? Are there any prospects for relief for prospective buyers who simply don't have 20 percent or 30 percent to put down and don't have elite-bracket FICO scores?

Doug Duncan, the chief economist for Fannie Mae and former chief economist for the Mortgage Bankers Association, acknowledges that big banks — and Fannie and Freddie — are seeing their highest-quality "books of business" in decades, thanks in large part to their strict credit standards and documentation rules.

He believes, however, that the underwriting cycle could start to loosen as banks begin to pare down their pricing add-ons, their fears of costly "buy backs" of existing loans recede, and rules on mortgage lending are unveiled by the government.

Comments
Taxpayer subsidies of Tampa golf courses are on the rise as struggles continue

Taxpayer subsidies of Tampa golf courses are on the rise as struggles continue

TAMPA — For the half of the year that Harry Nichols lives in Oldsmar, he plays 18 holes several times a month at Rocky Point Golf Course. On a good day, Nichols said he shoots close to par on the Dana Shores course. And if he’s really lucky, it’ll on...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

When Brenda Terry was 16 and living in St. Louis, she was a hostess and food runner at a sports bar where female employees wore cute, little cheerleading skirts. One night, she said, a patron grabbed her crotch. She ran to her management team and the...
Published: 12/15/17
Pigs can be therapy animals too. So can horses and rats and cats and llamas and … (w/video)

Pigs can be therapy animals too. So can horses and rats and cats and llamas and … (w/video)

Shrieks of laughter echoed off the walls of the hospital as Thunder the mini pig flopped onto his side and the children huddled around him, scratching his pink, hairy belly. He and his wet-nosed partner, Bolt, drew patients in wheelchairs and bandage...
Published: 12/15/17
Vology landlord challenges property tax assessment

Vology landlord challenges property tax assessment

LARGO — Eight months after paying $10.15 million for the office building that houses IT services company Vology, a New York company is suing the Pinellas County Property Appraiser and Florida Department of Revenue contending its $5.5 million tax asse...
Published: 12/15/17
Florida’s $1.1 billion Hardest Hit Fund winding down after some hard knocks

Florida’s $1.1 billion Hardest Hit Fund winding down after some hard knocks

In 2010, Florida was in the throes of an unprecedented housing crisis. One in every eight homes was in some stage of foreclosure. Today, the foreclosure rate is one in every 83. Because of that enormous drop, Florida’s Hardest Hit Fund will s...
Published: 12/15/17
Report: Rich will get still richer unless policies change

Report: Rich will get still richer unless policies change

By ELAINE KURTENBACHTOKYO — Global inequality has stabilized at high levels in recent years, a report said Friday, despite gains among the poor in China and much milder disparities in incomes and wealth in Western Europe. The World Inequality Report ...
Published: 12/15/17
How the Disney/Fox deal will shake up Hollywood

How the Disney/Fox deal will shake up Hollywood

Associated Press NEW YORK — After years of tremors, the earthquake that had long been predicted finally shook Hollywood. Disney’s deal to purchase most of 21st Century Fox ends the era of the "Big Six" major movie studios, toppling one ...
Published: 12/15/17
St. Petersburg’s Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement set to be complete in 2019

St. Petersburg’s Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement set to be complete in 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — The Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, under construction since 2015, is scheduled to be complete by the summer of 2019.The five-story, 137,100-square-foot building will house businessman and collector Rudy Ciccarello’s...
Published: 12/15/17
Obamacare enrollment ends today, but some can get an extension

Obamacare enrollment ends today, but some can get an extension

Today is the day that open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act will close for most people. But those affected by the slew of hurricanes that pummelled Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and other states earlier this year can take advantage of a two-week ...
Published: 12/15/17
Pack your bags: 107.3M Americans to set holiday traveling record

Pack your bags: 107.3M Americans to set holiday traveling record

A record-breaking number of Americans are expected to travel this holiday season.The American Automobile Association projects that 107.3 million Americans will pack their bags and travel more than 50 miles by planes, trains, automobiles and other mod...
Published: 12/14/17