The regulator of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is reportedly working on a deal with the financing entities that will loosen up lending standards and make mortgages more affordable for those with less-than-perfect credit. The move is expected to expand home buyers’ access to financing, as tight credit the last few years has kept many sidelined.
The new rules reportedly will include a lower minimum down payment requirement (from 5 percent to 3 percent), in order for lenders to qualify to sell a loan to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That would bring down payment in sync with the Federal Housing Administration, which insures loans made to lower-income borrowers and first-time buyers. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guarantee about 59 percent of all mortgages written.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie and Freddie, reportedly will include more safety measures to help lenders protect themselves from making bad loans. Lenders have faced numerous high-dollar settlements after issuing loans that later defaulted. The new agreement would give greater confidence to lenders so they won’t be penalized years after a loan is made, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The potential agreement “would allow credit to flow more freely to lower- and middle-income households,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, told The Wall Street Journal. “That’s vital to getting the housing recovery moving forward.”
During the financial crisis, the financing giants faced steep losses as home loans defaulted. The spike was blamed on poor underwriting by lenders in ensuring that borrowers could afford their mortgages. In response, the companies, which were seized by the government in 2008, have had banks tighten their credit standards, which some critics say has gone too far and prevented many home buyers from qualifying for a home loan.
The Urban Institute has estimated that 1.2 million more mortgages would have been issued in 2012 alone if lending standards that were commonly used in 2001 were still in place.
"Understandably, after the [financial] crisis the pendulum of mortgage credit standards swung to a far extreme” Paul Leonard, California director of the Center for Responsible Lending, told the Los Angeles Times. “It's now working its way back to a more moderate position.”
The FHFA is expected to formally announce the plans later this week.
Source: “Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Reach Deal to Ease Mortgage Lending,” Los Angeles Times (Oct. 17, 2014) and “Mortgage Giants Set to Loosen Lending,” The Wall Street Journal (Oct. 17, 2014)