Non-Traditional Mortgage Lending -- "A through D"
by Garret M. Kolb
What was once a small segment of residential lending is now becoming one of the fastest growing areas in mortgage banking. Nearly every major institution is entering the non-traditional lending market. These lenders are providing loans to borrowers that do not meet the traditional credit criteria of secondary market investors such as the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC). Some issues preventing borrowers from meeting these criteria are bankruptcies, defaults, foreclosures and chronic late payments on credit obligations. This article will review the salient points of non- traditional mortgage lending.
- Credit Grades
- Non-traditional mortgage lending is categorized into credit grade categories based upon credit and capacity to repay the mortgage loan. Those categories are A-, B, C and D. The more serious the credit problems, the further the grade decreases. As the grade on loans decreases, lenders generally assess higher rates and fees.
Several factors contribute to the credit grade on non-traditional lending such as past consumer credit history and mortgage payment history. Generally, lenders review the credit history for the past 12- 24 months.
- Income Ratios
- Besides credit considerations, non-traditional lenders review the capacity of the borrowers to repay the mortgage obligation. Lenders calculate a ratio (debt ratio) using the total monthly debts and the total monthly income. For example if a borrower has a monthly income of $6,000 and a total monthly debt obligation (including housing expenses and other consumer debt) of $2,000, the debt ratio would be 33%. If a borrower has a low debt ratio, the grade will be higher. Conversely, if a borrower has a high debt ratio, the grade will be lower.
- Income Documentation
- Non-traditional lenders use three approaches in documenting a borrower's income: Full documentation, easy doc/simple doc and no income.
- Full Documentation: Borrowers provide pay stubs, W-2s or federal tax returns for self-employed. Generally lenders require a two-year history to substantiate the borrower's income.
- Easy Doc/Simple Doc: Borrowers provide bank statements to substantiate monthly income.
- No Income: Lenders use the stated income from the loan application and the borrowers do not have to provide any documentation to substantiate the income. This type of loan is known as the "No Income Qualifier".
Lenders will assess a lower grade on loans when little or no documentation is provided to substantiate the borrower's income.
- Non-traditional lenders adjust the loan-to-value ratio as a method to reduce the risk of financial loss if a borrower defaults and there is a loan foreclosure. Most lenders believe borrowers with a low loan-to-value ratio have a lower probability of a foreclosure than a borrower with a high loan-to-value ratio. In cases where a borrower has a low credit grade and/or little income documentation, lenders may reduce the loan amount.
- There is little difference in the loan programs provided by traditional and non-traditional lenders. There are 30 and 15 year fixed fixed mortgages, balloon mortgages, and Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARM's). Non-traditional lenders assess higher rates and fees when there is a lower credit grade, a lack of income documentation or a high loan-to-value ratio.
Some industry experts believe one out of eight loans are non-traditional. As this market expands, competition in the non-traditional mortgage market will produce better rates, loan programs and terms.
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