In the early 2000s, getting a mortgage was hardly difficult thanks in great part to lax lending standards.
This practice eventually led to a bubble forming in the nation’s housing market — which, as we all know, subsequently burst.
Since that time, the pendulum has swung the other way — to an extreme.
Today, lenders require nothing short of pristine credit to obtain a mortgage. We can never return to the reckless lending policies of the past, but I believe they’ve gone too far, and it concerns me.
What will your credit score get you?
I took a look at data produced by the Federal Reserve and was shocked by what I saw. Of the $426.6 billion in mortgage originations during the second quarter of this year, almost 62 percent went to households with a credit rating of 760 or higher.
Borrowers with a credit score in the range of 620 to 659, which many lenders view as below-prime credit, received just 6.3 percent of the dollar volume of mortgages in the second quarter.
Now, when we compare that with the same quarter of 2004, the group with 760-or-higher credit received 23.5 percent of the mortgages, and the 620-to-659 borrowers received 8 percent.
Although surveys say credit is loosening for some types of loans, standards are still far tighter than necessary.
The data raises questions about whether regulators and banks have become too risk-averse. It’s also possible that borrowers without prime credit have just given up owning a home for now.
Figures from property-data provider CoreLogic show that home-purchase mortgage applications from borrowers with credit scores below 640 fell to 6 percent in 2015, from 29 percent in 2005. In other words, lower-rated borrowers aren’t even applying.
Rising home values might simply be putting property out of reach for a lot of lower-income people.
For example, prices in Seattle are up 55 percent from their 2012 post-crisis low, according to the Case-Shiller Index. Nationally, prices are up 35 percent from their 2012 low.
Higher prices require larger down payments and bigger mortgage payments, especially for borrowers with lower credit scores.
Of these 7 million homeowners, only 7.3 percent have obtained a mortgage again, and 69 percent still have a foreclosure on their credit score, thus precluding them from buying again.
The market is making it remarkably hard for many families to buy a home.
I would never suggest that we consider returning to the “old days” of sub-prime lending, but understanding that there are a large number of families who want to buy — and who meet acceptable standards for risk — should give lenders some pause for thought.
Matthew Gardner is the Chief Economist for Windermere Real Estate, the second largest regional real estate company in the nation. Matthew specializes in residential market analysis, commercial/industrial market analysis, financial analysis, and land use and regional economics. He is the former Principal of Gardner Economics, and has over 25 years of professional experience both in the U.S. and U.K.