Mortgages: common sense isn’t common practice anymore

It used to be that there was logic applied in the world of mortgage lending. An appraiser determined the value of a home by the axiom, “what a reasonable buyer would pay a reasonable seller”. An underwriter weighed the plusses and minuses of a file (after analyzing the income, the assets, the credit profile and the appraisal) and made a judgment call based on their experience.

Loans with sizable down payments used to be more flexible with how income was documented or what quality of credit was required. Even the decision of what made up “good credit” has been reduced to a FICO score. Determining the risk of a loan affected its approval or denial. Further, loans deemed riskier were given less favorable terms (higher rates and/or costs or larger down payments).

But today, everyone has tried to quantify everything and put everything into a matrix. Credit scores are numerical, and the number determines eligibility and cost. Gone is the concept of explaining why you have defects in your credit. We don’t care why, we just look at your score. Appraisers now are being scored and their data being scrutinized to a level most would find mind-boggling. Amenities that make a home worth more for a particular buyer (like a pool or upgraded basement) are virtually ignored. Underwriters have primarily become fact-checkers and quality control as a computer software program underwrites the vast majority of mortgages today.

Gone is common sense. It has been replaced by numerical formulas and a cover-my-behind, justify-everything-with-data mentality. Basically, the pendulum has swung too far. It used to be that lending was too easy (see the subprime debacle), but now we have eliminated too much of the human element. We need common sense back.

People who have saved 30% for a down payment know what they can afford monthly. Don’t they?

People who had a medical challenge two years ago that is not likely to reappear should not have a twenty year credit history destroyed. Should they?

People aren’t likely to overpay for a home with so much inventory and all the media exposure about falling prices. Are they?

Bring back some common sense when we need it most!

Courtesy of KCM Blog

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