Will new mortgage rules set stage for subprime resurgance

Subprime Mortgage

After much speculation, new mortgage and appraisal rules have recently been revealed and will go into effect in January.  Combined with the recent news of FHA’s reduction of loan limits (authorized increased limits sunset the end of 2013), there’s been a lot of buzz about how the housing market and home buyers could be affected.

On December 18th, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) launched a campaign to educate consumers about new mortgage rules that go into effect January 10th; specific information and fact sheets can be found at consumerfinance.gov.  Among the new rules, several include: the creation of the Qualified Mortgage (QM); new mortgage servicing rules; and additional protections financially challenged borrowers.

The QM is classified by the CFPB as a loan which qualified borrowers are presumed to be able to repay; and is described as a “safer” loan compared to some of loans originated prior to the mortgage crisis.  One of the main features of a QM, as of January 10th, is that mortgage lenders will have to assess the borrower’s ability to repay.  Additionally, the borrower cannot exceed a total monthly debt-to-income ratio (all monthly obligations including mortgage payments) of 43%.  Although lenders must make an effort to determine a consumer’s ability to repay based on typical factors including: income, assets, and debts; the new rules do not eliminate all subprime mortgages.

Two additional features of a QM include safer terms and limiting points and fees.  A QM cannot have loan terms that have been attributed to “risky” loans, such as negative amortization or interest only payments.  Furthermore, if you are directly paying a mortgage broker to originate your loan, they can no longer receive additional payment by another party for the same transaction; a QM is limited to 3% of the loan amount for points and fees.

To assist borrowers, the CFPB has set new mortgage servicing rules that include: providing clear mortgage statements that show how payments are credited; addressing mistakes promptly; crediting payments when received; and providing early notice for adjustable interest rate increase.

To assist borrowers facing financial challenges, the CFPB institutes rules that include: foreclosure cannot be initiated prior to 120 days delinquent; a foreclosure cannot be initiated if a complete application for mortgage assistance has been submitted; servicer call centers must be able to answer borrower questions relating to critical documents; as well as providing accurate and timely foreclosure status to borrowers who ask.

Financially challenged borrowers seeking assistance through their mortgage servicer have additional protections.  Borrowers who make application for loss mitigation early on must have all their options evaluated with one application; an explanation must be provided to borrowers rejected for loss mitigation; and borrowers could appeal a loan modification rejection based on the servicer’s mistakes.

New appraisal rules instituted by the CFPB become effective January 18th.  Although these rules do not apply to all mortgages, typically a borrower should expect: a licensed appraiser; an interior of the property, and a copy of the appraisal prior to closing.  Additionally, a second appraisal is required for a home that is considered a “flip;” a home sale that has sold in the previous six months is classified as a flip.

Although some have speculated the new rules, along with reduced FHA loan limits, will limit the availability of mortgages for some home buyers; others see the resurgence of the subprime mortgage to fill the gap.

New mortgage rules, lowered FHA loan limits, and other new changes are increasing investor backing of non-conforming mortgages.

by Dan Krell
© 2013

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