Not As Hard As You Think
So, what does it take to get approved for a loan to buy a house this summer, whether you’re a first-timer or planning to move up or downsize? Maybe not all that you think. For most people, the key requirement is that you’ve got the right package of stuff — credit score, down payment, financial reserves, debt-to-income ratio — to get an acceptable grade from the automated underwriting systems, or “black boxes,” installed at the dominant investors in the market, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Debt-to-income (DTI) ratios are a major factor hard-wired into the black boxes that refer to the ratio between your monthly credit-related expenses — including housing payments, credit cards, student loans and the like — and your monthly gross income. In an important policy change taking effect this summer, Fannie eased its reserve and down payment requirements for DTI’s in excess of 45 percent up to a maximum of 50 percent. Note that FHA uses its own proprietary underwriting system, which often yields more-generous decisions on approvals than Fannie’s or Freddie’s.
Regarding credit, in June of this year the average FICO score for home-purchase loans at Fannie and Freddie was 754. That’s a big reach for millions of would-be buyers. But that’s not the whole picture. According to data compiled by Ellie Mae, a software and analytics firm that tracks loan characteristics, substantial percentages of applications are receiving approvals from Fannie and Freddie with lower FICO scores than you might imagine. Nearly 13 percent of their approved loans in June had scores between 650 and 699. FHA’s average score for home-purchase loans was 683, but many were much lower than this average.
Down-payment requirements also are super-low at the moment. Fannie and Freddie both have programs that permit just 3 percent down with many state and local housing agencies providing grants and/or loans designed to ease the cash required even more. The bottom line? Get rid of preconceived notions you may have about how tough it is to get approved. Standards are more flexible and not as tough as you probably thought.
Source: Ken Harney, The Nation’s Housing, Fannie Mae and additional industry publications