FICOs and FHA: 2 big lenders loosen up

Wells Fargo, Quicken Loans revise credit, down payment requirements

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Here’s some unexpected good news for anybody working to get buyers into houses, especially first-timers who don’t have much down payment cash on hand: The door to an FHA-insured mortgage just opened a little wider.

With no fanfare or public announcements, two of the largest FHA-approved lenders have backed off their controversial "overlay" requirements on FICO scores (lender overlays are qualification requirements that can be more stringent than FHA’s own requirements).

Both Wells Fargo and Quicken Loans confirmed to me last week that they will now lend to applicants with 580 FICOs and 3.5 percent down payments.

Their revised standards conform in most respects to FHA’s own minimums, and open the agency’s financing to large numbers of buyers whose credit scores have sagged during the recession. Wells Fargo is the largest originator of FHA-insured mortgages; Quicken ranks third, according to industry data.