A significantly smaller percentage of purchase mortgage applications have been approved since the height of the home buying season last July despite lending industry claims that lending standards have loosened. Time to close and median FICO scores are only marginally improved.
In the third quarter survey of senior loan officers by the Federal Reserve, more than a quarter of the large banks in the report-who are anonymous- said they have somewhat eased the credit standards on residential mortgages over the past three months.
“Lenders are putting more focus on purchase mortgages and are adjusting minimum requirements to attract borrowers,” says Doug Lebda, LendingTree founder and CEO in a news release. “With home values improving, the risk of borrowers defaulting on loans has decreased, giving lenders more confidence to lend with less cash down from qualified borrowers.”
However Ellie Mae, whose transaction platform processes about 2 million mortgages a year, released hard data for October that tells a different story. The percentage of closed applications for purchase loans have fallen 310 basis points since June, the height of the selling season, a decline from 54.3 percent in June to 51.4 percent in October.
About 44 percent of the lenders in the Federal Reserve survey say the time for closing from the day of application has been somewhat reduced since the volume of refinances fell. And most say they have not changed their credit score requirements for buyers since rates climbed, but two large lenders in the survey say they reduced their minimum FICO score. The survey does not name the lenders.
The time to close has improved only slightly. from 47 to 45 days, and median FICO scores for all loans have relaxed somewhat, from 742 in June to 732 in October. However, the median FICO score for FHA loans used to purchase a house-a major source of financing for first time buyers because of FHA’s lower down payment requirements-also fell slightly over the past five months, from 696 to 692, only one point better than the 693 median rate for borrowers refinancing with FHA.