Is Mortgage Lending Getting More Consumer Friendly in 2012?January 12th, 2012 | Posted by in Mortgage News | News | Real Estate News
By Dick Thackston
I continue to read about mortgage credit terms such as Credit Scores, Down Payment Requirements, and so forth being eased on home purchases. Federal Reserve Senior Loan Officer Survey still reports historically tight standards. Part of the problem from what I’ve seen, is values coming in low on appraisals after the buyer and seller have come to terms, which in my opinion, reflects tightened appraisal standards. (Appraisers don’t want to be held responsible for over valuing properties – as they have been in the past – even though local market conditions support values.) It’s odd because in my experience appraisers who “know local areas” almost always have a clear sense of what is going on in a market; the biggest problem is large un-named government backed lenders that bring appraisers in from 200 miles away that often do not have a sense of the nuances for local markets that even underwriters can pick up from a desk 2000 miles away. Ultimately, sloppy work is sloppy work and it creates a drag on the entire process.
If home prices are stabilizing, as many people feel they are, this will actually be a bigger problem because house prices will no longer “always be lower than last month” and buyers will be bidding up prices which won’t be adequately reflected in comparable sales from a few months earlier. Low appraisals serve to drive prices down and create a self fulfilling cycle of ever lower prices. If appraisers are better able to justify the sellers price this may in fact be a key to breaking the cycle of pain in real estate we have seen.
Lenders have clearly been working to slow the pace of REO properties coming on the market; to be sure there are plenty of lender owned homes available and they still represent the majority of sales in all market despite everyone’s desire to deny the fact; this decline in the speed at which REO properties are coming on the market is likely to be a big part of stabilization. Once there is any perception of stabilization in the market it seems likely to me that many buyers will “pile into the market” and then be confronted with the challenges of getting a new loan – back to the appraisal and underwriting issues. The entire process is likely to be painful but rewarding for those with the constitution to push through: sellers and buyers both.
Re-financing has gone nuts by all reports from our friends in the lending business with home mortgage rates at historical, probably lifetime lows, loan officers actually have trouble keeping up with the volume of business they are processing. The good news here too is that a much lower percentage of these home mortgage re-finances are taking cash out unlike the past re-financing booms, this time the home mortgage re-finances seem to be more focused on actually reducing cash flow burdens on households, where as in the last fifteen years the home mortgage re-finance booms have been more focused on stripping homes of their equity to finance current consumption.
Mortgage lending in 2012 is probably less consumer friendly than in most of the last twenty years in the sense of underwriting standards and appraisal issues, however loans are being made and the process is sufficiently painful so that borrowers seem to really be paying attention to their reasons for going through the process and is getting done in a way that will lead to a healthier housing market in the foreseeable future.