As many of my readers may be aware, my mantra since 2010 has been that “We simply don’t have enough qualified home buyers in American, once you take away the cash buyers, to have a real economic recovery in housing “. While some may be tired of this refrain, there remain a number of highly respected housing “gurus” who continue to profess that it is unfairly tight lending standards, not the lack of qualified buyers that are suppressing a housing recovery. The difference is not academic.
Would-be home purchasers are unable, to qualify for a mortgage due to the following factors:
• They lack adequate monthly income. A lot of the jobs created, post-recession, are low-paying jobs that don’t provide adequate income to support a mortgage payment. More liberal lending standards will not correct this.
• They lack liquid assets. The down payment (even just 3% for some loans) and closing cost for a home purchase exceed many Americans’ available liquid assets.
• There is no financial bubble. The formal definition of a financial bubble is an economic cycle characterized by a surge in asset prices above the fundamental value of the asset. The housing bubble created excess demand based on poor lending standards. When the bubble popped, that excess demand disappeared. Not all the demand was fake in that cycle, however. In fact, a good portion of it was real. It would be a drastic mistake to attempt to manipulate lending standards in an effort to recreate that extra fake demand. If historically low-interest rates cannot generate homeownership demand, then we need to accept that a percentage of our adult population is simply not in a financial position to take on mortgage debt.
• Demographics are not favorable in this cycle, but in time they will be. Household formation has been very soft. People are staying single or getting married older. This translates into lower housing ownership demand as most people will wait to marry before considering a home purchase. Fewer dual-income households so fewer households that can afford a mortgage payment. These factors have driven strong demand in the rental market
Still, think tight lending is preventing a housing recovery? A quick review of the requirements for some of the mortgage loans available may surprise you.
No money for a down payment? Is zero down too tight?
VA (Veterans Administration) loans require no down payment, a minimum FICO score of 620, and allow up to 60% debt to income ratio. I don’t think anyone could call this tight.
Poor credit score? Is a FICO score of 560 too high? FHA (Federal Housing Authority) loans require a FICO score of 560 to 620. (Scores of 650 are considered “fair and below 600 are considered poor or high risk). Other requirements include at least 3.5% down and a maximum debt to income ratio of 43%. In some cases, they will accept up to 50% debt to income ratio.
High debt to income ratio? Is 50% debt to income ratio too stringent? GSE (Government Sponsored Enterprise) loans allow for 43% to up to 50% debt to income ratio in geographical areas where housing is particularly expensive. A minimum FICO score of 620 and a 3 % down payment is also required.
Other common requirements for these loans are a history of the same line of work for the past 2 years, 4 weeks of consecutive pay stubs to verify income, most recent W2, and most recent 2 months’ bank statements.
Home loans are available and home loans are being made. Over 4 million purchase home loans were given to Americans in 2014 and thankfully those were large to folks who have the financial capacity to own the debt of homeownership.
One of my 2015 housing predictions was that we would see 5%-10% total growth in mortgage purchase applications due to the low bar set last year.
This is the most recent data line from Professors Antony Sanders supports this prediction
We are now seeing above 5% total growth, year over year, for 2015 mortgage purchase applications.
As you can see below, mortgage purchase applications are still well below the pre-housing bubble years.
For 2015, I predicted year-over-year growth in all housing metrics, demand is improving. Having said that, even if cash buyers continue to make up a larger than “normal” percentage of home buyers, total existing-home sales will still be soft – so we have a ways to go to get back to a normal healthy market.
All housing analysts, I would surmise, would like to see a more robust housing market. Where we disagree is what should be done to encourage a healthy market. I believe we have a moral obligation as a society to reject attempts to engineer conditions that encourage people to put themselves in economic peril. We did that before, it was a disaster and we must learn from our past mistakes.
I have to believe that those who are saying lending is too tight are either not aware of the actual requirements and have absolutely no lending experience or have some other agenda that is preventing them from acknowledging the obvious. Gotta wonder. Frankly, I also gotta wonder why we keep listening to them.
Logan Mohtashami is a senior loan officer at AMC Lending Group, which has been providing mortgage services for California residents since 1988. Logan is also a financial contributor for Benzinga.com