Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wow – It Looks Like Borrowing is Becoming a Privilege and Not a Right, Again!

For those of us brought up in the old days of banking (prior to the 1990s) there was an expression, “borrowing is a privilege and not a right”. It looks like those days are returning. Or it looks like the recent period (since the 1990s) when there were basically very small risk premiums is over. How ever you like to describe the current situation, it looks like the good ‘ole days of lending are back. Personally, it is good for people to understand that the game of "real" life is played with live ammunition and there are consequences for your actions. Maybe people will now understand that a house is not an investment, but a place to live. Now with all that said, this is really going to choke off demand for housing. Text in bold is my emphasis. From the Washington Post:

Call it the credit risk hangover after the housing boom binge. Home buyers and refinancers who cannot come up with sizable down payments and whose FICO credit scores are below 680 are about to get squeezed in the mortgage market.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are imposing significant increases in fees for a range of borrowers with down payments of less than 30 percent who formerly were treated as "prime" credit applicants. At the same time, the two largest private mortgage insurers -- MGIC and PMI Group -- are raising premiums on consumers who have low down payments and scores in the mid- to upper 600s on the FICO scale developed by Fair Issac Corp. The added costs for some home buyers could total thousands of dollars, either at settlement or in the form of higher interest rates.

Each company says it has experienced unexpectedly high losses on loans with these characteristics and must revise prices upward to handle the elevated risks. But some mortgage bankers and brokers say the higher costs and down payments will make homeownership impossible or very difficult for a large number of borrowers and will slow a housing market recovery.

Although Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's revised fees won't take effect until March 1, major lenders who sell loans to the two investors began imposing the surcharges on applicants this month. Some mortgage loan officers are upset that clients with FICO scores close to 700 -- far above the once-traditional 620 cutoff point between "prime" and "subprime" -- are being charged more.

"This is outrageous," said Steven Moore, a mortgage broker with 1st Solution Mortgage in Falls Church. "On a loan of $300,000 and with a credit score of 675 -- which is not a bad score -- and a 75 percent loan-to-value ratio (25 percent down payment), the cost is an additional $2,250 per loan." If the same borrower wants to do a cash-out refinancing to consolidate debt, the new Fannie-Freddie fee schedule will add another $1,500 to total costs on a $300,000 mortgage, Moore said. On a $400,000 loan, he estimates the extra fees would total $5,000. (Wow, I guess that means your house is not an AYM machine, what a novel idea.)

Under previous standards, applicants with scores comfortably above 620 "could reasonably assume" they would qualify for a good rate, Lipes said. "But now we've got this whole new gray area between 620 and 680" under the revised Fannie/Freddie risk-based pricing guidelines. Joint applicants for whom one spouse or partner has a FICO score below the new guidelines will need to take special care, according to Lipes, so as not to trigger higher credit-risk fees.

Here's a quick overview of the new policies from Fannie and Freddie affecting loan applications in which the down payment amount is less than 30 percent: If the borrower's credit score is less than 620, a new 2 percent fee will be imposed. If the score is between 620 and 639, the surcharge will be 1 3/4 percent. If it is between 640 and 659, the add-on will be 1 1/4 percent. On scores between 660 and 679, the surcharge will be three-fourths of a percent.

According to mortgage banker Lipes, if applicants choose to roll the higher fees into the interest rate on the mortgage, the new Fannie/Freddie charges generally will increase rates by one-eighth to one-half of 1 percent.

The MGIC mortgage insurance premium increases, which were scheduled to be announced yesterday, are expected to have the heaviest impacts on borrowers making down payments of less than 3 percent and whose FICO scores are below 660, according to company officials. On such loans, MGIC is expected to raise premiums to 1.7 percent per $100,000 of the loan amount, up from a premium of 0.96 percent. On a $200,000 mortgage, that would raise the annual premiums from $1,920 to $3,400.

PMI Group's increased premiums, which have already taken effect, are similar, but the company also announced that it would no longer insure any mortgages for which the down payment is less than 5 percent and the borrower's FICO score is below 620.

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