May 25, 2022

FHA Zero Down Payment Financing Returns

Home buyers can once again purchase a home using FHA financing with a zero down payment.

Previous zero down payment FHA loan programs were funded by seller contributions funneled through a nonprofit group which then donated the down payment to the purchaser.  These seller financed down payment programs were terminated in 2008 after the FHA experienced default rates three times higher than when buyers made a cash down payment.

The innovative zero down payment FHA home purchase program was recently introduced by The Lending Company of  Phoenix, Arizona.  In order to meet the FHA required 3.5% down payment the borrower receives a 2.5% gift from a non-profit organization and the remaining 1% can be gifted from a family member. 

The Lending Company notes that the program is not a seller-paid down-payment assistance program.  To further reduce the amount of cash required by the purchaser, the seller is encouraged to provide seller concessions to cover closing costs.  A borrower receiving both gift funds and seller concessions can potentially purchase a home without putting any cash into the transaction.

The Lending Company – The One Percent Down Solution Gift Program is designed to provide eligible homebuyers a gift of up to 2.5% of the sales price to be applied towards the FHA down payment and/or allowable closing costs for the purchase of a home.

Targeted towards quality affordable housing, approved homebuyers can purchase a home for as little as 1% down payment. The program also allows for the remaining 1% down payment to be gifted from any FHA allowable source.

Program Benefits:

  • The program provides up to a 2.5% gift to FHA qualified home buyers (subject to market conditions, greater gift amounts up to 5.5% may be allowed)
  • Seller can and is encouraged to contribute towards the closing costs to further assist the homebuyer
  • Minimum credit score of 620
  • Successful credit restoration allowed

It will be interesting to see how future default rates on this zero down payment program compare to earlier “seller funded” down payment assistance programs (DAP).  The Federal Housing Finance Agency is well aware that zero down payment mortgages default at a much higher rate, as detailed in a 2007 study by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight.

This paper extends the analysis of mortgage default to include mortgages that require no down payment from the purchaser. The results indicate that borrowers who provide down payments from their own resources have significantly lower default propensities than do borrowers whose down payments come from relatives, government agencies, or non-profits. Borrowers with down payments from seller-funded non-profits, who make no down payment at all, have the highest default rates.

Source of down payment has not previously been considered in default modeling, but the relationship between default and the source of the borrower’s down payment may be related to trigger events. Borrowers who are capable of increasing their saving, or increasing their labor earnings, in response to unforeseen events may be less susceptible to trigger events. The need to save for a down payment may serve to separate those who can more readily increase saving and earnings from those who find it more difficult.

Loans with involvement from Down payment Assistance Program’s (DAPs), which effectively had no down payment, consistently showed the highest delinquency and claim percentages. Loans with a down payment from a source other than the borrower, such as a relative or government program, had lower claim and delinquency propensities, while loans with down payments from the borrower’s resources consistently showed the lowest rates of claim and delinquency.

This paper examines the case of literally “no money from the buyer” mortgages, and finds delinquencies and claim rates much higher than those for comparable loans with cash from the borrower.

fha-format

In January of this year, a bill was introduced in Congress that would have reinstated seller funded FHA down payments to purchasers through non profit groups.   The bill was never approved but  FHA Commissioner David Stevens stated his opposition, as reported by Bloomberg:

“We’ll always listen to proposals, but Secretary Donovan has been absolutely crystal clear that he’s against the idea, as am I,” said David Stevens, commissioner of the FHA, which is under the purview of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.

Stevens said that homeowners are more willing to default if they haven’t put any cash into their purchases.

“If a buyer puts down even a few thousand dollars, it’s a lot of money for them,” he said. “There’s a financial and an emotional commitment to the home that you don’t have otherwise.”

About 13 percent of down-payment-assisted mortgages originated in 2004 have defaulted compared with about 4 percent of other FHA mortgages, according to agency data.

None of the lenders, including San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co. and Countrywide Bank, acquired by Bank of America Corp. in Charlotte, North Carolina, incurred any losses, since mortgages they issued were insured by the FHA, the agency said.

Programs that provide down payments to purchasers may help home sales, but past experience suggests higher default rates and increased losses for the FHA.

Borrowers Chose Strategic Default On Reverse Mortgages

When reverse mortgages were last reviewed, it was predicted that many unqualified borrowers would wind up defaulting, despite the fact that a reverse mortgage has no payment due. 

As originally conceived, reverse mortgages were designed to fulfill a legitimate borrowing need.  Reverse mortgages were developed for elderly Americans who had a mortgage free home with substantial equity and wanted to cash out their home equity to supplement their retirement income without having to sell the house or face large mortgage payments.

In theory, the HECM made sense by allowing homeowners to remain in their homes and monetize their equity.  The lifetime HECM payment, along with other retirement income and savings would allow for a more comfortable lifestyle.  The only theoretical loser on the HECM program would be the FHA if property values dropped.

The HECM is available to all those 62 or older who have sufficient equity in their homes.  HECM program lends without regard to credit or income and is strictly  asset based lending.  Do these lending criteria remind anyone of  past  disastrous mortgage programs, such as  sub prime, ALT A or Pay Option ARMs??

A HECM does not require that the homeowner escrow for taxes  or homeowners insurance.  A known risk factor for default is a non escrowed loan.  The homeowner can face foreclosure  for not properly maintaining the property or for non payment of taxes or insurance.

Many homeowners taking out reverse mortgages were taking the maximum loan allowed upfront (instead of taking a monthly draw) and using the proceeds to payoff existing debt.  This choice left the elderly homeowner with little equity and no monthly cash payment to supplement retirement, a recipe for financial disaster.

The reason why borrowers are taking most of their available cash out upfront is because they are using the proceeds to pay off mortgages, consumer debt, medical bills, credit cards, etc.   Borrowers run up large amounts of debt when spending exceeds income, a situation likely to continue  after the borrower taps the last dime of equity from his home.  Since the HECM was the last option available, what happens in a couple of years when the borrower is again overwhelmed by debt?

Based on the credit profile and debt levels incurred prior to his approval of a HECM, what are the odds that the borrower’s finances turn around after his refinance?  My guess is that within a few short years, the borrower is in heavy debt again, unable to pay the property taxes or maintenance on the property and thus facing a potential foreclosure.  Since HUD will not be throwing senior citizens out of their homes, expect a mortgage modification program for reverse mortgages and further losses to the taxpayer on another mortgage program gone bad.

It now appears that, as predicted, many elderly reverse mortgage borrowers cannot afford to pay the property taxes due on their homes or are strategically chosing default since the decline in property values wiped out whatever equity they had left.  The end result is the predicted and ridiculous situation of borrowers defaulting on mortgages that do not have payments. 

This situation was confirmed in an audit report by the Office of the Inspector General.

HUD Was Not Tracking Almost 13,000 Defaulted HECM Loans With Maximum Claim Amounts of Potentially More Than $2.5 Billion

We performed an internal audit of the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program because we found that an increasing number of borrowers had not paid taxes or homeowners insurance premiums as required, thus placing the loan in default. Also, we noted that HUD had granted foreclosure deferrals routinely on defaulted loans, but it had no formal procedures.

We found that HUD’s informal foreclosure deferral policy and its reversal had a negative effect on the universe of HECM loans and loan servicers (servicers).  As a result, four servicers contacted were holding almost 13,000 defaulted loans with a maximum claim amount of more than $2.5 billion, and two of the four servicers said they were awaiting HUD guidance on how to handle them. Further, the servicers had paid taxes and insurance premiums totaling more than $35 million for these 12,958 borrowers…

Since unreported defaulted loans were only obtained from 4 of a total of 16 HECM servicers nationwide, more defaulted loans may exist. Further, as HUD could not track these loans, it did not know the potential claim amount. In the event of foreclosure of the 7,673 loans for which HUD was aware and 12,958 loans of which it was not aware, HUD could lose an estimated $1.4 billion upon sale of the properties.

Wells Fargo’s New Zero Down Payment Mortgage Program

Risk Of No Down Payment Mortgages

There is  longstanding and overwhelming statistical proof that zero down payment home buyers default on mortgages at a far higher rate compared to home buyers who make a down payment.   This matter has lately received more attention than in the past due to the large number of foreclosures related to zero down payment purchases during the housing bubble years.  In 2005, for example, nearly half of all home purchasers were made with zero down payment mortgages.

Zero Down Payments = Foreclosures

FHA Delinquency Crisis

Could FHA’s rising delinquency rate be due to FHA incorporating risky practices that have become standard in the mortgage industry? Since industry experts often cite 100% financing as being a major factor in the mortgage meltdown, let’s take a look at borrower down payment sources:

The delinquency rate clearly rises in tandem with the increase in non-profit funded down payments.

In 2005, HUD commissioned a study entitled “An Examination of Downpayment Gift Programs Administered By Non-Profit Organizations”. Later that year, another report titled “Mortgage Financing: Additional Action Needed to Manage Risks of FHA-Insured Loans with Down Payment Assistance” was completed by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Both studies concluded that seller funded down payment assistance increased the cost of homeownership and real estate prices in addition to maintaining a substantially higher delinquency and default rate.

No Skin In The Game
The analysis indicates that, by far, the most important factor related to foreclosures is the extent to which the homeowner now has or ever had positive equity in a home.

Instead, the important factor is whether or not the homeowner currently has or ever had an important financial stake in the house. Yet merely because an individual has a home with negative equity does not imply that he or she cannot make mortgage payments so much as it implies that the borrower is more willing to walk away from the loan.

Rather, stronger underwriting standards are needed — especially a requirement for relatively high down payments. If substantial down payments had been required, the housing price bubble would certainly have been smaller, if it occurred at all, and the incidence of negative equity would have been much smaller even as home prices fell.

No Down Payment

No Down Payment

Courtesy: WSJ

Wells Fargo Initiates Down Payment Assistance Program

Ignoring the overwhelming evidence of high default rates on zero down payment purchases, Wells Fargo (WFC) this week announced a major nationwide down payment assistance program (DAP) to be used for down payment and/or closing costs on FHA, VA and conforming loans.  Incredibly, the program is being advertised as a means of helping low to moderate income applicants achieve the “American dream” of home ownership.

Based on the historical evidence, Wells Fargo is sowing the seeds for the next major crop of foreclosures.  Incredibly, this is being done even as the current foreclosure crisis grows in intensity.  Approving mortgages that immediately put new homeowners at a high risk of default is financial lunacy and a  disservice not only to the homeowner but to a nation already in financial chaos due to defaulting homeowners.

Down Payment Assistance Programs (DAPs)

Help More Low- and Moderate-Income Borrowers Achieve Home Ownership.

Refer your low- to moderate-income applicants to local housing agency contacts and help them achieve home ownership by using one of these Downpayment Assistance Programs (DAPs) approved for use with a Wells Fargo Wholesale Lending first mortgage. DAPs provide financial assistance for qualified borrowers and, depending on the program, may be used for debt reduction, down payment and/or closing costs on FHA, VA and Conforming Conventional loans.

Disclosures: None

Elderly Americans Last Refinance – Reverse Mortgages

Reverse Mortgages – More Easy Lending

As originally conceived, reverse mortgages were designed to fulfill a legitimate borrowing need.  Reverse mortgages were developed for elderly Americans who had a mortgage free home with substantial equity and wanted to cash out their home equity to supplement their retirement income without having to sell the house or face large mortgage payments.

Almost all reverse mortgages are purchased by HUD and insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).  FHA insured reverse mortgages are known as “home equity conversion mortgages” (HECM) and they provide the following advantages to elderly homeowners:

  • Provides supplemental cash income to elderly homeowners.
  • Does not require a monthly payment.
  • Allows the homeowner to remain in his residence until death or sale of the property.
  • Should the borrower decide to sell and move, the  amount of the loan repayment cannot exceed the value of the house.
  • HECM allows the borrower either a monthly lifetime payment (based on value of the home and age at time of mortgage closing) , a lump sum payment, a line of credit or a combination of the above choices.

In theory, the HECM made sense by allowing homeowners to remain in their homes and monetize their equity.  The lifetime HECM payment, along with other retirement income and savings would allow for a more comfortable lifestyle.  The only theoretical loser on the HECM program would be the FHA if property values dropped.

HECM Program – Theory VS Reality

The disadvantages for a borrower of a reverse mortgage are as follows:

HECM rules require a borrower to make a full draw at closing to obtain a fixed rate mortgage.  Most borrowers take the adjustable rate option and a line of credit.  The adjustable rate HECM presently has a low borrower rate of around 3.1% based on a lending margin of 2.75% and a LIBOR index of only .32%.  At some point rates will rise again and rates on the HECM could rise dramatically – the lifetime cap on the loan is over 13%.  Borrowers could see their credit lines reduced and their equity vanish quickly with higher interest rates.

Borrowing money without having to make a loan payment equates to compounding interest working against the borrower since the loan balance increases each month along with interest charges.  Borrowers who later decide to pay off the HECM and sell their homes may find that most of their equity has been lost due to accrued interest.

The HECM is a very complex product.  Despite the fact that HUD requires a potential borrower to receive financial counseling, it is unlikely that most borrowers fully understand the type of mortgage they are taking out.

The HECM is available to all those 62 or older who have sufficient equity in their homes.  HECM program lends without regard to credit or income and is strictly  asset based lending.  Do these lending criteria remind anyone of  past  disastrous mortgage programs, such as  sub prime, ALT A or Pay Option ARMs??

The fees on a HECM are very high and include an upfront and monthly mortgage insurance payment to the FHA, loan origination fees and other closing fees.  Total fees over the life of the loan can reach 12%.

A HECM does not require that the homeowner escrow for taxes  or homeowners insurance.  A known risk factor for default is a non escrowed loan.  The homeowner can face foreclosure  for not properly maintaining the property or for non payment of taxes or insurance.

The most striking feature regarding the use of reverse mortgages by elderly Americans is the large amount of equity that is being extracted upfront, leaving them with only a small future monthly cash payment as can be seen in Exhibit 3 below.

HECM CASH PAY BY YEAR

HECM CASH PAY BY YEAR

Courtesy: HUD.GOV

The reason why borrowers are taking most of their available cash out upfront is because they are using the proceeds to pay off mortgages, consumer debt, medical bills, credit cards, etc.   Borrowers run up large amounts of debt when spending exceeds income, a situation likely to continue  after the borrower taps the last dime of equity from his home.  Since the HECM was the last option available, what happens in a couple of years when the borrower is again overwhelmed by debt?

HECM – Loan Of Last Resort

The number of reverse mortgages has increased tremendously as other borrowing sources have disappeared.  Many of the reverse mortgage borrowers are retirees with limited income who would not qualify for a traditional mortgage loan under current underwriting guidelines.  In the past, many of these borrowers would have taken out a stated or no income verification mortgage.   The  large increase of HECMs starting in 2005 correlates to the time period during which no income verification loans were being discontinued.

Reverse Mortgage Volume

Reverse Mortgage Volume

Here’s an actual example of a HUD approved HECM.  Borrower has a home worth $525,000 and owes $290,000 in mortgages and other debt which will be paid off with a $350,000 HECM.  Homeowner is left with about $60,000 at closing.  Borrower has an abysmal credit score of 510 and  is 90 days past due on his current mortgage.  Income is unknown since HUD doesn’t care about the borrowers income.

Based on the credit profile and debt levels incurred prior to his approval of a HECM, what are the odds that the borrower’s finances turn around after his refinance?  My guess is that within a few short years, borrower is in heavy debt again, unable to pay the property taxes or maintenance on the property and thus facing a potential foreclosure.  Since HUD will not be throwing senior citizens out of their homes, expect a mortgage modification program for reverse mortgages and further losses to the taxpayer on another mortgage program gone bad.

More on this topic

Smarter planning would probably eliminate the need to borrow when retiring.   Bob Adams writes an informative and thoughtful blog on the challenges of successful retirement – a site worth bookmarking.

FHA’s New Mortgage Program – Free Home Plus Trip To Vegas

100% Plus Financing Available

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, passed early this year, provides up to an $8,000 tax credit for first time home buyers.   The tax credit refund would be given to the home buyer after filing the 2008 or 2009 tax return.

It was only a matter of time before someone would realize that this tax credit was not helping the prospective FHA home buyers who had difficulty raising the required down payment of 3.5% for an FHA purchase.  The solution seemed obvious – let the home buyer receive the tax credit money upfront to be used for the down payment.

Last week, use of the tax credit for a down payment was officially endorsed by Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  Mr. Donovan stated that “We all want to enable FHA consumers to access the home buyer tax credit funds when they close on their home loans so that the cash can be used as a down payment”.   Mr. Donovan noted that this is one of the ways that the government is working to “stabilize” the housing market.

Mr. Donovan’s plan may actually do more than just stabilize housing – it may set off a buying stampede, multiple offers and bidding wars at the lower end of the housing market.  Consider the following example  of a home purchase using FHA guidelines and the $8,000 home buyer tax credit.

Loan Scenario

On the purchase of a home priced at $80,000 the buyer needs the FHA required down payment of 3.5% ($2,800).  In addition to the down payment, the home buyer needs money for closing costs and prepaid items, which could easily amount to 6% of the property’s purchase price ($4,800).  The FHA also charges an upfront mortgage insurance premium of 1.75%  ($1,400).  The total amount theoretically needed by the purchaser totals $9,000.

In the real world here’s how this deal will be structured:

  • Down payment of $2,800 covered by tax credit – cost to purchaser – ZERO
  • Closing costs and prepaid items of $4,800 can and usually are worked into the purchase price since the FHA allows up to a 6% seller concession – cost to purchaser – ZERO
  • Mortgage Insurance Premium of $1,400 is added to the purchaser’s loan amount and financed by the FHA – cost to purchaser – ZERO
  • Total cash out of pocket by purchaser – ZERO
  • Cash due to purchaser for unused portion of tax credit – $5,200 – enough to easily cover a couple of weeks vacation in Vegas.
  • Based on the FHA’s default rate, approximately 15% of the new home buyers will default shortly after closing. Considering foreclosure freezes and  loan modification attempts, many purchasers can look forward to enjoying payment free housing for 2 to 3 years.

Program Benefits/Limitations

Benefits for FHA home purchaser:   Zero cash outlay to own a home,  FHA financing provided at an all time low interest rate, $5,200 cash bonus to purchaser,  plus a free long term call on the price of housing.  With these types of buyer incentives,  expect to see an increase in home purchases by the first time home buyer.

Higher incomes groups excluded:   For single taxpayers with an adjusted gross income over $75,000 and for married couples with income over $150,000, the tax credit is reduced or eliminated.

FHA 203k Program – Financing Uninhabitable Homes

Good Intentions Gone Astray?

Vacant - Please Destroy

Vacant - Please Destroy

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) currently provides over one third of all mortgage financing.  One unique mortgage program the FHA offers is the “Rehabilitation Loan Program (203k)”.

The benefits and features of the 203k program according to the FHA are as follows:

Funds for Handyman-Specials and Fixer-Uppers

The purchase of a house that needs repair is often a catch-22 situation, because the bank won’t lend the money to buy the house until the repairs are complete, and the repairs can’t be done until the house has been purchased.

HUD’s 203(k) program can help you overcome this obstacle by enabling you to purchase or refinance a property plus the cost of making the repairs and improvements in one mortgage.

A potential homebuyer locates a fixer-upper and executes a sales contract after doing a feasibility analysis of the property with his/her real estate professional. The contract should state that the buyer is seeking a 203(k) loan and that the contract is contingent on loan approval based on additional required repairs by the FHA or the lender.

If the borrower passes the lender’s credit-worthiness test, the loan closes for an amount that will cover the purchase or refinance cost of the property, the remodeling costs and the allowable closing costs.

An iron clad rule that I have observed is that government programs once enacted never end even after they serve no useful purpose. In a different time, the 203k program made a lot of sense by revitalizing a community. It also allowed a home buyer the opportunity to acquire a property at a low price and through “sweat equity” rehabilitate the property and increase the value of the home.

Does The 203k Program Still Make Sense?

The collapse in home values and the wave of foreclosures require a reassessment of the FHA 203k program due to the huge number of vacant homes in the country.

(Bloomberg) — A record 19 million U.S. homes stood empty at the end of 2008 and homeownership fell to an eight-year low as banks seized homes faster than they could sell them.

The U.S. had 130.8 million housing units in the fourth quarter, including 2.23 million empty homes that were for sale, the Census report said. The vacancy rate was 3.5 percent in urban areas and 2.6 percent in suburbs, the report said.

U.S. banks owned $11.5 billion of homes they seized from delinquent borrowers at the end of the third quarter, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in Washington. That’s up from $5.4 billion a year ago.

Many of the vacant homes that the FHA is lending on through the 203k program are currently empty due to the fact that they are uninhabitable (no utilities, gutted interiors, major damage, etc)  and being sold for little more than the value of the land they sit on.   Do we as a nation really need to allocate more of our limited resources to housing when we already have millions of existing vacant homes?  Would it not be more cost effective to tear down the gutted houses and put potential homeowners into a vacant home that needs minimal repairs?

Of course, once the vacant home is rehabilitated via the 203k, there is more than a 1 in 10 chance of the borrower defaulting on the new FHA loan and the home potentially becoming vacant again (See FHA – Ready To Join Fannie and Freddie.)

Why Does The FHA Approve Loans That Borrowers Can’t Afford?

pie

FHA Delinquency Rate Raises Questions

The latest delinquency rates reported by the FHA are troubling and raise serious questions about the qualification process for approving FHA  borrowers.   The latest FHA numbers focus on the number of borrowers defaulting within the first year of the loan as detailed in the Wall Street Journal.

Nearly 10.2% of borrowers who took out FHA-backed loans in the first quarter of 2008 had missed at least two consecutive monthly payments within the first 10 months. That was up from 2007, when 9.4% of FHA-based borrowers missed payments within the first 10 months.

But loans with seller-funded down payments, which have higher default rates, were “clearly adding to the overall losses,” said William Apgar, a senior adviser to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan.

Congress ended the seller-funded down-payment program last fall. Loans made in 2007 with seller-funded down-payments were 60% to 70% more likely to have a 60-day default than loans made without the 100% financing, Mr. Apgar said. HUD officials told Congress that down-payment assistance programs accounted for 30% of all FHA foreclosures but just 12% of all loans.

Dubious FHA Approvals

There is obviously something very wrong with the FHA mortgage approval process when over 10% of newly approved borrowers default on payments  within the first ten months of the loan.  These borrowers should have never been approved in the first place.

The basic flaws in the FHA mortgage program have been discussed previously and center on low down payments and low credit score borrowers – see FHA – Ready To Join Fannie and Freddie. The FHA delinquency rate has exceeded 10% since 2001.  The high default rate cannot be blamed on the poor economy but rather the loose FHA underwriting standards.

The FHA goal of helping Americans to achieve home ownership is commendable but should not be done at the expense of bailouts by the American taxpayer.  The FHA is not helping those “lucky” homeowners  approved for mortgages who then discover that the financial obligations of home ownership are far greater than expected.   In this situation, the home owner becomes the loser when he should have been the winner.

By not providing long term affordable housing finance to homeowners the FHA is failing its basic mission.  To its credit, the FHA has taken some small steps to mitigate future loan losses by eliminating the seller-funded down payment program,  increasing the down payment requirement  to 3.5% and limiting cash out refinances to 85%.  In addition, the FHA has always made only full income verification loans.  The high FHA default rate, however, indicates that further initiatives are necessary.

Recommended Action To Reduce FHA Defaults

Two major initiatives that the FHA should undertake to ensure that they are not trapping potential home owners into becoming mortgage slaves are as follows:

1. Initiate a mandatory education program for first time home buyers on the risks and costs associated with home ownership.  A detailed proforma budget of all projected income and expenses should be put together to give the potential home buyer a detailed view of how realistic the goal of home ownership is and what sacrifices may be required in order to meet their payment obligations.  See Long Term Housing Stability Based On Strong Borrowers.

2.  There are many statistics and arguments being put forth as to why FHA borrowers are experiencing sky high default rates.  After cutting through the fog of confusing variables, the basic fact is that borrowers are defaulting for a very simple reason – inadequate income.   If the borrower does not have sufficient income, the odds of default increase.   Why has the  FHA not examined the correlation of income levels to default rates?

The qualifying debt ratio for a mortgage borrower is simply the the housing expense (principal, interest, taxes, insurance and mortgage insurance) divided by the borrower’s gross monthly income.  Recently, HUD Secretary Donovan stated that HUD has decided that they would seek mortgage modifications to bring a borrower’s debt ratio down to 31%, a “standard that is truly affordable for borrowers.  31% debt-to-income ratio is the right standard”. Secretary Donovan is correct and is essentially saying that the monthly housing expense should not be excessive in relationship to monthly income which is only basic common sense.

The paradox related to Secretary Donovan’s pronouncement is that FHA loans are routinely being approved at debt ratios considerably higher than 31%.  It is not unusual to see debt ratios on FHA loans well above 40% and sometimes as high as 55 to 60%.   Debt ratio approvals above 40% almost guarantee that the borrower is going to be under severe financial stress, leading to late payments and default.

The FHA is not unique in approving high debt ratio loans.  It is also routinely done by Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE) – see Mortgages Still Being Approved For Unqualified Borrowers.

Unless the government lending agencies take a closer look at a borrower’s ability to repay, expect the cycle of mortgage defaults, foreclosures, bailouts and bank failures to continue.

More On This Topic

10 Mistakes First-Time Home Buyers Make

The Next Hit – Quick FHA Defaults

Rate of Default is Rising Among FHA Backed Loans