Sometimes news creates an opportunity for us to explain to our readers various parts of the mortgage process. That happened this week when business media highlighted the fact that a significant rule may expire this year. The rule involves one of the most important metrics for evaluating a mortgage application, the Debt-to-Income ratio (DTI). Your DTI is calculated by taking your monthly housing expenses (including insurance, taxes, and HOA/condo fee) and adding to it your other fixed monthly expenses such as auto loans and the minimum payment on any credit card debt. Divide that total by your monthly income. That is your DTI. Besides your credit score, it is the most important number in qualifying you for a mortgage.
For example, your housing expense is $2200 per month. Your car loan is $350 per month. Perhaps you also have a small credit card balance which has a minimum monthly payment of $20. Your monthly gross income is $7000. Therefore, your DTI is approximately 38%. That is a number that will get you easily approved for a mortgage, all other things being equal.
The rule that may be allowed to expire is one that allows your DTI to exceed 43%. That max DTI was established in the wake of the 2009 financial crisis, but Congress and our regulators made a rule that allowed the DTI limit to exceed 43%, and in fact up to 50%, if your loan application is approved under rules established by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These exceptions make sense because Fannie and Freddie approve mortgage applications based on a totality of factors, as opposed to just one single factor. However, if not extended, the maximum DTI for what are considered “Qualified Mortgages” will be 43%, regardless of any compensating factors.
We have always found that having extra flexibility regarding DTI has helped many of our clients, particularly when there is income that cannot be counted for qualifying purposes such as irregular bonuses or room rents. We will keep an eye on whether this flexibility will continue, and keep you posted.
Steven H Hofberg, Operations Manager
Most homeowners shopping for a mortgage loan are aware of just how important their credit score is in determining the rate and terms that they will be offered. Practically all lenders use a “tri-merged” credit report, which is one that combines the data and the scores from the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The middle score is used to underwrite the mortgage.
Fair Isaac, the company that created the FICO score, announced that it will soon implement changes to the FICO model. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, those changes are expected to boost those with excellent scores and hurt those with lesser scores, thus widening the gap between consumers who are considered good credit risks and those that are not.
Among the changes are harsher treatment of late payments and rising debt levels and penalizing consumers who obtain personal unsecured loans, such as those offered by many credit card issuers. It is believed that millions of consumers could see their scores rise or fall as a result of the changes.
As to what this means for each individual looking for a mortgage, best practices for credit use have not changed much. On-time payments are the single most important factor in your score. However, these changes to the FICO model will increase the importance of other factors such as the amount of credit outstanding compared with your total available credit and, in the case of personal loans, the type and purpose of the credit obtained. Apparently there are good loans and not so good loans.
As always, the simplest advice is the best. Use your credit wisely and your score will help rather than hurt you.
As many of you who work with me have learned, underwriting a
mortgage is an art, not an exact science. Our job is to set the client up
for success by making their separation agreement fit into underwriting
This month I ran into a somewhat amusing underwriting problem on a
Maryland loan. The underwriter told me that since there was an unsigned
notary page attached to the agreement, the separation agreement needed to be
notarized to be legal. I patiently explained to her that separation agreements
in Maryland do not have to be notarized to be legal and binding. She then told
me that she went on the internet and found something that said that Maryland
separation agreements had to be notarized. When I asked her for the site she
just said that she “Googled” it. After further discussion, she finally
agreed that Google is not necessarily a reliable source for that information
and backed down.
So, the moral of the story is that if your clients are not
planning on getting their signatures notarized, leave out the notary
page! It will lead to fewer questions and concerns from underwriters. And
don’t believe everything you read on the internet.
Have a great week!
Margie Hofberg, President
Residential Mortgage Center Inc