Bernanke: Loan Standards Easing

One of the main questions hanging over the Federal Reserve’s plan to buy up to $40 billion a month in mortgage-backed securities (MBS) to help spur the housing market is whether continuing tight underwriting requirements will offset any positive impact the effort will have on lowering mortgage interest rates.

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun and other analysts have said that interest rates, already at historical lows, don’t need to come down further to spur home buying. What needs to happen instead is a change in lenders’ underwriting policies. Since the downturn, lenders have been imposing underwriting restrictions on borrowers that go above and beyond what Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and FHA require for loans. For example, borrowers in some cases need to have a credit score 100 points higher than what Fannie, Freddie, or FHA require.

These restrictions, or overlays as they’re sometimes called, on federally backed loans are crucial, because Fannie, Freddie, and FHA comprise so much of the mortgage lending market today. Lenders say they need these higher standards to ensure they don’t make loans on which borrowers subsequently default and then face having to take them back if Fannie, Freddie, or FHA say the loan violated the “representations and warranties” the lender made when they originated the loans….read more

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